20 Years of Hurt Ends
County Antrim Shield Final - Ards 4 v 2 Crusaders
at the Oval, Belfast - Tuesday 1st February 1994
It was Andy Warhol who said that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. For David Straney it
was actually seventeen minutes.
The Downpatrick youngster was introduced into this absorbing game of football in the seventy third minute to replace a tiring Harry McCourt, and what an impact he made, scoring two goals to finally bury a resilient Crusaders side and bring the first senior trophy back to Newtownards since the glory days of the mid 1970’s.
Cup finals are notorious for providing little in the way of good football as there is so much at stake
and the sides involved are usually a bit more conservative in their tactics. This final was an
exception to the rule; it was an exhilarating game played by two evenly matched teams who were
intent in going ‘all out’ for the win.
On a bitterly cold evening Ards, resplendent in their change strip of white shirts, blue shorts and red socks played with the strong breeze at their backs, shooting towards the Sydenham end. Despite the wind in their faces it was Crusaders who started brightest, with Steven Livingstone going close with a header in the very first minute of play. Ards settled after this and started to take control, with new signing Bobby Browne prominent. Dubliner Browne, who had signed from Shelbourne five days earlier, was to play a significant role in the contest, and it was fitting that he should open the scoring on seven minutes. A strong Darren Erskine raid down the right saw the big man roll the ball into the box for Browne to send an unstoppable shot past Kevin McKeown from eight yards.
Ards were well on top and Harry McCourt sent an effort over the bar when one on one with
McKeown. McCourt again and then Erskine had further chances to increase Ards’ lead but in case
you thought it was all one-way traffic Paul Kee in nets for Ards made a fantastic close range save
from a Michael Cash volley. Ards went in at the break a goal to the good and on the balance of play it should have been more.
Crusaders, now with the wind advantage, were expected to come at Ards a bit more aggressively,
and this they did, but the Ards defence and Kee in particular were giving nothing away. Ards went 2-0 up ten minutes into the new half with a well worked goal. Ian Bustard started the move when he played an intelligent pass to Browne just wide right of the penalty box. Browne taking his time,
picked out an unmarked Karl Wilson at the back stick and the former Coventry City player shot high into the net from close range, giving McKeown no chance.
Crusaders were far from beaten though, and two minutes later Paul Kee made a stunning save from Glenn Hunter. Kee, who had returned on loan to Ards from Oxford United at the turn of the year, was having to show all the experience he had gathered in six years of professional football with Oxford and Wimbledon.
Against the run of play Ards nearly had the game sealed when Marty McCann fired in an innocuous long range effort that McKeown had some difficulty in dealing with.
On seventy two minutes the hard-working Browne was again in the thick of the fray, but this time his overconfidence got him into trouble. Helping out in defence and facing his own goal, he tried to walk the ball out of the eighteen yard box with Kirk Hunter and Glenn Hunter breathing down his neck. Kee was screaming for him to put the ball onto the Sydenham Bypass, but one can only
assume that Browne, newly arrived from Dublin, did not have an earthly where Sydenham was,
never mind its bypass and continued dribbling the ball into his own goalmouth where big Kirk Hunter seized the opportunity to robustly put ball and player into the net to give Crusaders a lifeline. A now buoyant Crusaders went at Ards with renewed vigour and took the game to their opponents. It was at this stage though that manager Roy Coyle played his masterstroke by bringing on the nippy Straney for McCourt.
Crusaders were on the front foot as they threw caution to the wind by playing three at the back and putting an extra man forward. This formation nearly reaped dividends, but Glenn Hunter was off target with only Kee to beat. Kirk Hunter also went close with an acrobatic overhead kick which
thankfully sailed over the crossbar. In a counterattack Erskine went close for Ards, but young
Straney was destined to write his name into Ards folklore with practically his first touch of the game.
With ten minutes remaining Erskine went down the right on a surging run and hit a fierce drive that McKeown could only parry out to Browne. The irrepressible Dubliner, showing typical calmness, knocked the ball sideways to Straney who hit home to put Ards into a 3-1 lead.
“It was one of my first touches, my feet were still numb with the cold as I wasn’t long on but
thankfully I was able to get a good first touch to put it in.” Straney later recalled.
Game over? I should think not! Crusaders came back strongly and on eighty two minutes reduced
the deficit to just one goal again when Roddy Collins superbly volleyed the ball into the roof of the
net from outside the box. Paul Kee had to be brave to save at Glenn Hunter’s feet as Crusaders went all-out in search of an equaliser. The Belfast side, in committing so many men forward, were leaving themselves exposed at the back. An overstretched Crusaders rear-guard were relieved when McKeown brilliantly tipped over a rasping Erskine effort with just minutes to go.
It was in another counterattack in the final minute that Ards finally put the game beyond the ‘Crues’.
Darren Erskine gained possession in his own half and threaded a great ball through to Straney, who, it must be said, looked suspiciously offside. Straney, in the clear, went straight for goal, and showing a coolness belying his tender years, calmly rounded the advancing McKeown to roll the ball into the empty net. It was a tremendous finish from the nineteen-year-old to put the seal on a great game of football. Straney retains a vivid picture of the goal:
“I was on the verge of being offside, it was touch and go I must say, I put the head down though and played to the whistle. Kevin McKeown came off his line and I pushed the ball round him a yard, steadied myself then knocked it in. I was over at the fence with a few of the other players
celebrating with the fans when the referee allowed Crusaders to kick off again but thankfully some
of the more experienced heads stayed on the pitch to take care of things.”
Ards- P.Kee, P.Mooney, N.Mitchell, T.McDonald, D.Jeffrey, I.Bustard, B.Browne, M.McCann,
D.Erskine, K.Wilson, H.McCourt. Subs- D.Straney for McCourt and W.Murphy not used.
Crusaders- K.McKeown, H.Kenny, M.Cash, M.Murray, R.Lawlor, K.Hunter, S.Livingstone, L.Dunne,
R.Collins, G.Hunter, S.Burrows. Subs- C.McCrea for Cash and D.Carroll not used.
Referee- Mr. Davy Magill (Belfast).