BANBRIDGE Town qualified for the Mid-Ulster Cup Final with a comprehensive victory over a young and inexperienced Lurgan Celtic side.
It was a thoroughly professional performance that saw them qualify for a cup final at their third attempt this season.
The goal avalanche began in the third minute when Timmy Grant won a free kick on the 18 yard box and dead ball specialist Paul Walsh found the net with a screamer.
There was a hunger about Town’s play and they went 2-0 ahead after 10 minutes, it came from a great break from Chris McGrath who robbed a Celtic defender and combined with Chris Kingsberry who supplied a lovely ball for the incoming Grant, who fired in at the right-hand post.
Kingsberry had another good effort that fizzed wide. Although Town were in total command, the hard fighting Celtic pulled a goal back on 19 minutes through Johnny McAlinden,with a deflected shot past Town keeper.
However, after 33 minutes Town restored their two goal cushion when Timmy Grant was on hand to tap in from close range. It was 4-1 on 43 minutes, when Conor Downey rose in the box to neatly head home a Paul Walsh corner.
The second half completely belonged to a rampant Banbridge side and a Chris McGrath vollied goal on 49 minutes was followed by another by Timmy Grant three minutes later to complete the latter’s hat-trick. Ryan Gourley replaced Willie Herron and was soon involved in the move that resulted in Chris Kingsberry racing in to blast a shot past the visiting keeper. Roving mid-fielder Chris McGrath got his second goal after 65 minutes as the young Celtic side began to wilt under the pressure.
With the game well and truly won, manager Brian Adair brought subs Stephen O’Neill and Aaron Cobb off the bench in place of Timmy Grant and Barry Tumilty. Town still continued to dominate proceedings and after 69 minutes Stuart Thompson attacked down the right-wing and crossed for Mattie McCartan to make no mistake. Pacy sub Steven O’Neill made his customary impact on the game, scoring the last two goals of the game, the second of which after 89 minutes was the result of a great through ball from Chris Kingsberry.
Team... NATHAN MORLEY-HILLEN, MATTIE MCCARTAN,PAUL WALSH, NEIL ALDERDICE, STUART THOMPSON, BARRY TUMILTY, CONOR DOWNEY, WILLIE HERRON, TIMMY GRANT, CHRIS KINGSBERRY, CHRIS MCGRATH. Subs...STEVEN O’NEILL ( FOR GRANT 65MINS) , RYAN GOURLEY (FOR HERRON 53MINS), AARON COBB (FOR TUMILTY 65MINS).
Forty-eight hours later, Lurgan Celtic were back again in Crystal Park for a League fixture.
This was of upmost importance to Celtic as they were still in the promotion hunt and fielded a full side on this occasion. This turned out to be a very highly competitive game with a very confident Banbridge side overcoming an early Celtic onslaught to take a 27th minute lead through Steven O’Neill who dispossessed Paul Donegan before slotting past keeper Fox.
Stuart Thompson went close with a swerving free kick on 33 minutes as Town now were in command, and the homesters raced into a 2-0 lead after 45minutes thanks to Timmy Grant, who raced past two despairing defenders to score a great goal.
McGrath, Grant and O’Neill constantly caused problems for the visitors and Mattie McCartan threw himself into some great tackles at the back. Celtic made a double substitution as they threw caution to the wind and Daniel Ryan reduced the arrears after 58 minutes with a back header from a free kick.
Neil Alderdice saved Town soon after with a great save from his feet after another Ryan thunderbolt. Celtic pushed hard to secure a vital victory and equalized on 85 minutes when Daniel Ryan got his head to a corner to score past Morley-Hillen.