Ballyclare Comrades’ dream of reaching this year’s Intermediate Cup final is over after they were edged out by Institute at Mill Meadow.
Stephen O’Donnell’s header, which arrived two minutes into the second half of extra-time, sealed the deal for ‘Stute who were made to battle against nine men. Both Johnny McClurg and Gary Brown saw red for Ballyclare after picking up two cautions each.
The Comrades had gone into the match full of confidence on the back of Saturday’s 3-1 win over Bangor but, despite a battling display, they simply weren’t clinical enough in front of goal. The two red cards compounded matters and gave them a mountain to climb.
O’Donnell’s goal was a bit of a sucker-punch but the north west outfit had been knocking on the door after the dismissals.
Institute now face Ards in May’s final after they defeated Knockbreda on penalties in the other last-four tie.
Both sides created a few half-chances in the opening exchanges but the first clear-cut opportunity of the night fell to Stute’s Oisin McMenamin who somehow steered the ball wide from close range after doing well to get on the end of Robbie Hume’s pinpoint low cross.
Ballyclare left-back Mark Shannon blazed a free-kick over the bar while at the other end ‘keeper Ross McKnight - in for the cup-tied Paddy Flood - produced a good stop to deny Shane McGinty who linked up well with McMenamin.
Just before the interval O’Donnell squandered a glorious chance to put ‘Stute ahead, firing wide from close range.
Stute then had ‘keeper Martin Gallagher to thank when he produced a brilliant double save from Brown who had shown a clean pair of heels to the defence.
McClurg was dismissed on 66 minutes but it didn’t overly hamper the Reds as striker Chris Trussell got in behind the defence to flash an effort across the face of goal.
With seven minutes of the 90 left Brown received his second caution of the night for a needless foul on sub Alex Pomeroy and was off for an early shower.
From then on Stute looked the most likely and the breakthrough arrived in the second half of extra-time when O’Donnell’s strong header beat McKnight.