INSTITUTE: Captain O'Donnell books final spot
Institute deservedly booked their place in the Intermediate Cup final, as Stephen O'Donnell's extra-time header was enough to see off a battling Ballyclare Comrades side.
O’Donnell, who has scored a host of big goals for the Waterside men this season, produced a man of the match display, which was capped off with his bullet header in extra-time.
In truth, although Comrades had two men - Johnny McClurg and Gary Brown - rightfully sent-off they were playing second fiddle for large parts of the semi-final tie, at Mill Meadow.
Nevertheless two top drawer saves by Martin Gallagher to deny Brown just after the hour mark, meant the Stute keeper has now kept an impressive nine clean-sheets in a row.
The first real chance in the tie came on 19 minuntes when young Comrades keeper Ross McKnight, who had a super game, fumbled a high ball, but he did well to keep out Oisin McMenamin’s follow-up effort.
Just after the half-hour mark a super flowing move ended with Robbie Hume’s teasing left-wing centre finding McMenamin at the near post, but the striker failed to hit the target.
The lively Brown broke the Stute offside trap, but the alert Gallagher raced off his line to clear the danger.
Another slick passing move ended with McMenamin’s clever back flick finding Shane McGinty inside the box, but the midfielder’s close range shot was deflected wide by a super last ditch block by Adam McCart.
Right on the stroke of half-time O’Donnell should have broken the deadlock when Hume’s left wing free-kick went all the way to the back post and found the unmarked skipper, but his first time strike from close range clipped the post on it’s way wide.
Kevin Deery’s side were playing some neat and tidy football and another passing move on 49 minutes ended with McGinty firing wide from 20 yards.
Four minutes later Brown missed a glorious chance when he raced clear into the box, but with only Gallagher to beat, his two close range strikes were superbly kept out by the Stute net-minder.
Just after the hour mark a super Sean Roddy delivery from the right found Mark Scoltock, but the big defender headed wide from 10 yards.
Comrades were reduced to ten men on 66 minutes when McClurg was shown his second yellow card followed by a red after bringing down Ciaron Harkin.
A minute later Jamie McIntyre had a great chance but he failed to test McKnight and blasted over.
Comrades were rightfully reduced to nine men on 83 minutes when Brown, who was already cautioned, fouled Stute substitute Alex Pomeroy and like McClurg he was sent-off by referee Jamie Robinson.
Despite having a two man advantage for the final seven minutes, Stute were unable to get the crucial opening goal and the tie went to extra-time.
Early in extra-time Hume went close to finally breaking the deadlock, but his close range strike was superbly kept out by McKnight.
Always looking dangerous Institute were unable to get the opening goal as the nine men battled hard.
The winning goal came on 102 minutes when Roddy’s right wing centre found O’Donnell and his powerful header from 10 yards found the net, despite McKnight’s best attempts.
Institute: Gallagher, Roddy, O’Donnell, Scoltock, Hume; A Harkin, C Harkin, McGinty; McIntyre (Jarvis 87), McMenamin (Pomeroy 67), Brown (Mills 81).
Ballyclare Comrades: McKnight, Woods, Shannon, McClurg, McCart, McQuitty, O’Hanlon, Dobbin, Trussell, Brown, Haskins (Simpson 81).
Referee: Mr Jamie Robinson