Peter Wilson reports from Dixon Park
Larne battled past a spirited and a stubborn Ballyclare Comrades side to book their place in the last eight of the Saddler’s Peaky Blinders Irish Cup.
With the hosts defending resolutely, it was a Dean Jarvis header in the eighth minute of extra time which sealed the victory for Tiernan Lynch’s Inver Reds against Paul Harbinson’s Comrades.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action in the opening minutes of the game.
It took until the ninth minute for Larne to register a shot on target as Tomas Cosgrove whipped in a good ball from the right hand side after engineering himself some space but Davy McDaid couldn’t keep his volley down.
Meanwhile for Ballyclare, Adam Gray took a stab at goal from the edge of the box but Conor Devlin was equal to the effort.
The Comrades thought they had opened the scoring midway through the first half when Fra Nolan had the ball in the back of the net but the linesman’s flag was up for offside.
John Herron almost opened his account for Larne just a minute into the second half when Donnelly laid off to Cosgrove on the right who played the ball across to the former Glentoran midfielder but he stabbed agonisingly wide of his near post.
The story for most of the second half was that Larne simply could not find a way past Ballyclare’s stout defence.
On 55 minutes, Adam McCart did well to clear just before McDaid could latch onto a clever Mark Randall through-ball.
With 16 minutes to go of regular time, the ball somehow stayed out of the back of the net after Lee Lynch’s beautiful ball in from the left wing fell to Donnelly who hit the post with the ball spinning away in the wrong direction before McDaid could pounce.
With 84 minutes gone, the home side had a great chance to take the lead with a Samuel McIlveen free-kick from 25 yards, but it flew past the post.
Cillin Gilmour almost made an immediate impact after coming on as replacement when he headed narrowly wide at the back post from Donnelly’s corner on 87 minutes.
After eight minutes of extra time, the third of a succession of Donnelly corners saw Dean Jarvis power home unmarked in the box to give Larne the lead.
The only effort of note from Ballyclare during extra time came in the 114th minute when McCart’s shot was comfortably held by Devlin.
Larne hung on to see out the win and firmly keep their hopes of a first Irish Cup title alive. They will be at home to Coleraine in the quarter-finals, in a repeat of last year’s last eight clash.
Ballyclare Comrades: McCauley, Woods, McCune, McIlveen, McCart, J. Dobbin (c), Nolan (Robinson 96), C. Dobbin, Malone (O’Neill 58), Gray (Mathieson 90 + 2), Donnelly
Unused Subs: Crawford, McCreery, Hagan, Cooper
Larne: Devlin, Kelly, Watson, Herron (Gilmour 85), Sule, Randall (Jarvis 59), McDaid, Donnelly, Tilney (Lynch 72), Cosgrove, Hughes (c)
Unused Subs: Mitchell, Flowers, Ramsey, Andrade
Referee: Raymond Crangle