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Sunday 17 Sep 2023
Junior Cup | First Round recap

The first round of the fonaCAB Junior Cup, traditionally spread over two weeks, concluded on Saturday to begin another long road to the final next spring at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

The designated 'Tie of the Round' saw an all Fermanagh & Western affair as Beragh Swifts hosted NFC Kesh at Fountain Lane.

Scoreless at the break, substitute Grant Ellis came off the bench early in the second half to spark a six minute three-goal blitz to turn the tie firmly in favour of the visitors. Ellis opened the scoring on 57 minutes, Daniel Wilson doubled up four minutes after that and Ryan Beatty added a third not long after that.

Stephen Browne did pull one back for Beragh with seven minutes remaining, but Lee Walker made sure for Kesh in stoppage time.

Holders Dergview Reserves kicked off their defence of the trophy with a 5-0 away win over Groomsport. Stephen Mills and Stuart Mortland struck midway through the first half, before goal from Conor Black, Ethan Nethery and Mills again after the break saw the holders progress.

But last season's losing finalists, Harryville Homers, suffered an uncharacteristic early exit after losing on spot-kicks to St. Mary's (Newtownabbey) at the Valley Leisure Centre.

St. Mary's thought they had done enough in normal time, only for Lewis Mearns to strike five minutes into stoppage time to earn the Homers a reprieve.

In the end it took penalties to separate the sides with St. Mary's eventually running out 6-5 victors to progress to the next round.

Coalisland Athletic, winners two seasons ago and beaten semi-finalists last term, kicked off what they'll hope will be another successful run with a 3-1 win on the road over Newtownbreda.

Aaron Kerr opened the scoring as early as the opening minute, with Ciaran O'Neill adding a second later in the first half. Mark McMurray did pull one back for 'Breda just before the hour, but Sean Corr restored Coalisland's two-goal advantage soon after to complete the scoring.

And last season's other losing semi-finalists, Strathroy Harps, also made it through albeit only on penalties at the expense of Ballynahinch YM after the sides shared six goals during normal play.

As ever, there were some impressive scoring displays with four sides (Castlewellan Town, 22nd OB, Ardmore and Enniskillen Town United) clocking up 11-goal victories, while Belfast Celtic YM also hit double figures.

Individually, Ardmore's Jack Coyle led the way with five goals to his credit, just ahead of Caolan Gray (Newry Celtic), Joe McWilliams (22nd OB) and Dean Wright (Antrim Rovers) who all bagged four each.

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