BRANDYWELL HARPS upset the odds on Sunday when comfortably winning the 2012 McAlinden Cup following victory over Abercorn at Brandywell Stadium.
Despite being one of the most decorated sides in the history of this prestigious competition, Liam Deery’s Harps outfit went into Sunday’s highly anticipated showpiece as underdogs against a vastly experienced Abercorn.
And yet they easily accounted for their opponents and never looked back having taken the lead inside the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Harps haven’t had a lot to celebrate this season as they’ve appeared to save their best form for this competition while their league displays have been inconsistent.
And the management at the Brandywell side will now hope this victory can prove a springboard to further success next season.
Having progressed through to the final following victories over First Division side, A.O.H. Harps, Celtic Swifts, The Bentley and Oxford United Stars, this was expected to be Harps’ toughest test.
However, Abercorn failed to perform and once again fell short of winning their first ever Blue Riband Cup.
The match began at a frantic pace and it was Harps who fashioned the vital breakthrough in the opening stages.
James Melly floated a free-kick into the Abercorn penalty area from the right side on 10 minutes and Dan McIntyre met the ball superbly to head past goalkeeper, Emmet Mapp.
Abercorn responded positively and came close to restoring parity when striker, Liam McGuinness evaded the challenges of two Harps’ defenders but when he finally unleashed his shot, it was saved well by Lee Wade.
However, on the half hour mark, Harps were awarded a penalty kick when an Abercorn defender handled the ball inside the box and referee, Noel Crossan immediately pointed to the spot.
James Melly stepped up to take the kick but, Abercorn keeper, Mapp guessed correctly and dived to his right to make the save.
Harps began to dominate possession and really should’ve added to their tally on two occasions but they failed to hit the target and were made to settle with a narrow 1-0 advantage at the interval.
The Brandywell club emerged in the second half in similar fashion as they sought that crucial second goal. But it was Abercorn who came closest when Ciaran McGuinness met Sean Mapp’s cross, though his header sailed narrowly wide of the target.
When Ciaran McGuinness sent another header just past the post shortly afterwards the attendance sensed that they would find their way back into the contest.
However, on 70 minutes Harps added to their lead following good work from Raymond Rogan who set up Connor McIntyre to fire home from 14 yards.
It looked ominous for Abercorn at this stage and four minutes later the game was over as a contest when Dan McIntyre netted his second of the afternoon.
The Harps’ man managed to time his run to perfection, beating the offside trap before moving in on goal and Mapp was unable to prevent his well executed strike from finding the back of the net.
Abercorn did attempt to find a way back into the game during the final 15 minutes but this young Harps team did well to control possession while 16 year-old goalkeeper, Lee Wade was in inspired form to deny the Abercorn attack.
Abercorn - Emmet Mapp; Brian Rainey, Billy Garnon, Declan McGowan, Dee Liddy, Alec GIven, Sean Mapp, Ciaran McGuinness, Liam McGuinness, Patrick O’Donnell; Subs - Dermott Friel, Kevin Nixon, Michael Dillon, Aaron Crilly, George McGowan.
Brandywell Harps - Lee Wade; Blaine McDaid, Joe McCallion, Stephen Melly, Ryan Toland, James Melly, Conor McIntyre, William McVeigh, Raymond Rogan, Darren McFadden, Dan McIntyre, Martin Doherty; Subs - Gary Melly, Oran Murphy.
Referee - Noel Crossan.