In fact the final, played at the Ballymena Showgrounds In In In fact the final proved to be a real thriller with the game ending in deadlock after extra-time before the winners were identified in the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
During the opening 15 minutes Plunketts’ slicker passing and movement had the Harps’ defence under sustained pressure with a number of last ditch tackles preventing glorious scoring opportunities.
Indeed, the Harps’ back five of O’Hagan, Dalzell, Mooney, Henry and goalkeeper, Kyle Dougal, thwarted everything that Plunketts’ threw at them during that period.
The Belfast side were awarded a free-kick 20 yards from goal and their captain, Connor, struck a tremendous shot which saw the Harps keeper produce a top drawer save when Dougal dived a full stretch to pluck the ball out of the air.
Harps then settled down and began to create chances of their own with strikers, McDowell and Duffy, holding up the ball well allowing their midfield quartet to get forward.
But with both teams effectively cancelling each other out, the opening period remained scoreless.
However, after the change of ends, Harps opened on the front foot exerting pressure with the midfield of Wilson, Caolan McLaughlin, Dean Brown and Aiden McLaughlin forcing a series of free-kicks and corners.
And excellent deliveries into the danger area from both McDowell and Henry, resulted in the Derry lads crashing efforts off the Plunketts’ crossbar with another effort whipped off the goal-line as Harps grew in confidence.
Plunketts created their best scoring chance with 10 minutes remaining when they broke from a Harps’ corner and their towering centre-forward raced through one-on-one with Dougal only to blast the ball over the bar.
Harps introduced Oran McConnell up front as they tried to win the game during the latter stages and the substitute had an instant impact resulting in the Plunketts’ keeper pulling off two fine saves.
Harps were forced to make a change in the first period of extra time with their ‘man of the match,’ Michael Henry hobbling off and he was replaced on the left side of midfield by the hard working Ben McCourt. But scoring chances were at a premium and game ended in deadlock forcing that dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Plunketts won the toss and opted to take the first penalty and having scored their first, they missed the next three with the Harps’ keeper pulling off two excellent stops. Caolin McLaughlin and Aaron Dalzell scored for harps with penalty king, Stephen Duffy, hitting the post. This left it down to Ronan Wilson to step forward and blast the ball into the net to win the cup for the Derry side and spark great scenes of celebration.
Harps’ manager, Harry McCourt and club chairman, Gerry Doherty, extended their thanks to Gary Dunne and Michael Duffy for all their help during the season and a special thank you to Derry City boss, Declan Devine, who travelled from Malin Head on Monday morning to give the team a few words of encouragement before they left home.
Route to the final
Foyle Harps road to the final saw them defeat Glenavon away 2-1; Ballyclare Colts at home 5-2; Willowbank at home 4-0; Glentoran at home in quarter-final winning 2-1 before a local derby against Maiden City Academy, Harps winning 4-2 on penalties
The successfull Foyle Harps’ squad was - Kyle Doughal, Sean Friel, Michael Henry, Aaron Dalzell, Callum O’Hagan, Dylan Mooney (Capt.), Dean Brown, Ronan Wilson, Caolan McLaughlin, Liam Barr, Ben McCourt, Aiden McLaughlin, Andrew Ross, Stephen Duffy, Shane McDowell, Oran McConnell, Conor Shirley, Joe McCartie and Mark Brown.