Ballinamallard United manager Harry McConkey insisted all of his players were heroes after the Championship side from Fermanagh reached the Tennent’s Irish Cup Final for the first time in the club’s history.
“It is very hard to put into words what this means, but it’s great, just great,” he said.
The Ballinamallard boss said he did want to single out individual players for praise and hailed his starting eleven and his four substitutes for “an absolutely amazing achievement”.
As well as his players, the manager also praised his backroom team and those behind the scenes for their input into the historic win at Mourneview Park.
McConkey revealed the Mallards’ game plan was to press high and not to let Warrenpoint set the tempo by playing out from the back – and he felt they did that superbly for much of the game.
The midfield pairing of captain Richard Clarke and man of the match Christopher Kelly, plus the centre back partnership of Ryan O’Reilly and Matthew Smyth, were particularly effective for the Fermanagh side alongside veteran keeper John Connolly.
“I felt we dominated possession in the first half and asked questions of them. We could have been a bit more creative but I felt we got to grips with (midfielder) Ciaran O’Connor, who is an important player for them,” the Mallards manager said.
“Warrenpoint had more control in the second half without really hurting us. I thought John Connolly was great in the sweeper keeper role. The game was more open in extra time but we pushed again late on. And then John and the penalty takers were great in the shootout.”
There were few chances in the game. Warrenpoint’s best opportunity came when striker Philip Donnelly headed against the woodwork in the first half, while Connolly did well to smother an effort from Town striker Lee Duffy.
’Point keeper Jared Thompson, who was on duty with Northern Ireland’s U21s in Spain during the week, pulled off a couple of great stops, pushing a stinging shot from Christopher Kelly over the top on 26 minutes and then palming away a fine Nathan Cashel effort in extra time.
However, he was unable to stop the Ballinamallard tide in the penalty shoot-out and the men from Fermanagh deservedly booked their place in the decider.
Mallards manager McConkey quipped that he would now keep the date of 4 May free and put it in his diary - and he promised to buy a new suit for the occasion.