Ulster Premier side Cookstown produced a thrilling comeback to defeat top tier Pembroke to reach the final four of the Irish Senior Cup joining UCD, Glenanne and Lisnagarvey on a weekend where Three Rock Rovers were dethroned.
Cookstown came from two goals down to win 3-2 in a tie which will live long in the memory.
“That was a brilliant game,” said Cookstown’s Greg Allen. “We were 2-0 down and were a bit slow getting into the game, but we rallied and changed a few things around the back at half time. That seemed to make all the difference.
“At 2-2 I don’t think we looked like losing. We just kept at it and kept at it, and in the fourth quarter Scotty McCabe popped up with the finish from a great move.
“Pembroke were definitely good for their lead in the first half though. They’re a quality side with a lot of quality players, and they made it very tough.
“Being two down made our job pretty simple in the second half. We had nothing to lose – it’s the quarter final of the Irish Senior Cup after all – and we knew that we had to throw everything at them, give it a rattle and see what happened. Thankfully, we got the goals we needed for the game to go our way.”
Alan Sothern sent Pembroke ahead in the first quarter with a superb deflection before Jack Ryan doubled the Dubliners’ advantage from the tightest of angles. Pembroke were good value for their 2-0 half time lead, slinging the ball around at pace and causing problems across the pitch.
Cookstown came out swinging in the second period, however, with Stuart Smyth smashing home from the short corner set piece to halve the deficit in quarter three.
Jack Haycock had a memorable half, finding himself on the sidelines through a green card before sending Cookstown level with an unstoppable drag flick at the start of quarter four. He then missed a penalty flick, but finished the half on top with a series of big tackles to keep his team in the match.
The moment of the game came with two minutes to go. Mark Crooks started the move inside his own half, finding Smyth infield. His reverse pass beat the tiring Pembroke defence to pick out Greg Allen on the baseline. The striker used all his experience to draw the Pembroke goalkeeper out and square for Scott McCabe to force the ball over the line for 3-2.
Pembroke managed a final foray into the Cookstown circle, but Josh McCabe in goal was equal to the danger, saving well to send the Reds into the next round where they will meet UCD.
The students inflicted a first cup defeat in Irish knock-out competition on Rovers since February 2017, ending a run of 34 successive victories for the Rathfarnham club.
Michael Styles’ student side held on for a 3-2 success at Belfield, a brilliant first half performance laying the base for the result.
Andrew Meates put them in front in glorious fashion, his deflection hitting the top corner from Jazze Henry’s reverse-stick cross. Iain Styles added the next two for a commanding 3-0 lead at the big break and seemingly set fair.
Rovers, though dominated the second half and were back in the mix courtesy of third quarter efforts from Ross Canning and James Walker, setting up a tense final quarter.
UCD held on, however, with Max Maguire making a string of awesome stops while Ziggy Agnew made some big last-ditch tackles. Canning was denied from a penalty stroke for a potential equaliser and UCD went through to the semi-final and a shot at a first ever Senior Cup final appearance.
It ended Rovers’ two-year reign in this competition, winning nine matches along the way in this competition along with 12 in the Neville Cup, nine in the Mills Cup and four in the EY Champions Trophy.
The other side of the draw saw Glenanne get the best of Monkstown 2-0, overturning a heavy league defeat against the same opposition.
Johnny McCormack put the Glens 1-0 up in the second quarter before Shannon Boucher made the game safe at the start of the final stanza.
They were reasonably good value for the results, hitting the post in the first quarter from a penalty corner rebound too while edging the corner count 4-2.
Lisngarvey never looked in any danger of relinquishing their unbeaten record as they swept past Cork C of I at Comber Road.
Indeed, they could easily have racked up an even bigger score had they not been uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal.
It took them just seven minutes to break the deadlock as Daniel Nelson swept home a pin point cross from Ollie Kidd.
Andy Williamson and Nelson both went close and then, from a rare Cork attack, Ireland captain Jonny Bell made a brilliant goal-line clerance.
But Garvey added to their tally in the 29th minute when Williamson sent a drag flick low into the net from a penalty corner.
Two minutes from the break, Troy Chambers made it 3-0 in similar fashion as Garvey continued to dominate.
In the 42nd minute, after James Corry had fired over, Peter McKibbin put the game to bed when he scored from the penalty spot after Kidd had been upended by the Cork keeper.
Williamson’s penalty corner effort crashed off the post in the 47th minute but Garvey had the final say when he made amends to score his second shortly afterwards following a terrific assist from Ben Nelson.
In Leinster Division One, Railway Union and Clontarf continued their winning streaks to set up a huge showdown next Saturday in the battle for Christmas number one.
Railway beat Avoca 3-2, shaking off the Blackrock side who twice had the game level courtesy of goals from the prolific Richard Couse. But a Michael Fulham double and one from Daragh Curley saw the Sandymount side home.
Tarf, meanwhile, were too strong for Kilkenny with an 8-2 win. The first came from a corner rebound from Jordan Edmonds; Kevin Mullins got the next before David McClure scored a stylish reply, a great individual run which ended with a strike from the top of the D.
Davyn Keuter, however, made it 3-1 before half-time; Alan O’Malley put further distance between the teams with a great lobbed effort. Mullins, O’Malley and Edmonds all got their second with Kevin Murray getting in on the act with Eddie Healy getting the Kilkenny single response in the second half.
Portrane were 4-3 winners over Rathgar to go up to third place. They took the lead five minutes in after being awarded a stroke for a poor tackle; Imran Khan converted to make it 1-0, the first of an eventual hat trick.
Rathgar were level by the end of the first quarter after Andy Malcolm deflected in a Stuart Malcolm pass from a corner.
Portrane were counter attacking well and won a short corner in the second quarter. While the push out was poor, the ball was worked to Khan to grab his second after he slotted his shot into the corner.
He then completed his treble after winning the ball in midfield and beat three players and the goalkeeper, 3-1 at half-time. Rathgar pulled a goal back to make it 3-2 from a Mark Holland deflection. Portrane restored their two-goal lead with a miraculous deflection from Stephen Rogan.
Stu Malcolm made it 4-3 with five to go but Rathgar were unable to find an equaliser.
Dublin North got their second win in a week with Adrian Sweeney, Paddy Gahan, Michael Gahan and Shane Dempsey contributing to their 4-2 win over Bray.
Irish Senior Cup quarter-finals: Cookstown 3 (S Smyth, J Haycock, S McCabe) Pembroke 2 (A Sothern, J Ryan); Glenanne 2 (J McCormack, S Boucher) Monkstown 0; Lisnagarvey 5 (A Williamson 2, T Chambers, D Nelson, P McKibbin) Cork C of I 0; UCD 3 (I Styles 2, A Meates) Three Rock Rovers 2 (J Walker, R Canning)
Leinster Division 1: Avoca 2 (R Couse 2) Railway Union 3 (M Fulham 2, D Curley); Dublin North 4 (A Sweeney, P Gahan, M Gahan, S Dempsey) Bray 2 (S Fleming, S Brennan); Portrane 4 (I Khan 3, S Rogan) Rathgar 3 (A Malcolm, M Holland, S Malcolm); Kilkenny 2 (D McClure, E Healy) Clontarf 8 (A O’Malley 2, J Edmonds 2, K Mullins 2, D Keuter, K Murray)