A 91st minute goal from John Meade gave Cobh Ramblers a deserved draw at Finn Harps on Friday night and set up an FAI Cup third round replay at St Colman’s Park.
The Cork side looked to be heading out of the competition only for Meade to get the vital glance on Davin O’Neill’s devilish delivery from a dead ball into the Harps penalty area in stoppage time to cancel out Kevin McHugh’s opener.
Thirty-three-year-old McHugh had impishly lobbed Shane Hallahan from an acute angle on seven minutes to put the Ballybofey side on the verge of a place in the hat for the draw for the last eight, a round of the competition the Ballybofey club were last in 10 years ago.
From a Michael Funston throw-in, the visitors marking was poor and from the fringes of the angle of the six-yard box McHugh’s effort seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before it dropped right inside the post.
With Harps’ season essentially hanging on the cup, especially so since their 2-0 loss at home to Waterford United seven nights’ beforehand more or less ended their dreams of promotion, the cash-strapped north-westerners could do without two journeys to Cobh in five days.
The replay is pencilled in for Monday night and the sides are due to meet in the Airtricity League First Division on Saturday, August 31.
Harps had already beaten Cobh 4-1 at home earlier in the campaign but the last time the team managed by Dave Hill visited the Twin Towns they left with a 2-2 draw.
Martin Deady warmed the hands of Ciaran Gallagher from Cobh’s first real chance on the half-hour mark but, almost immediately, Johnny Bonner went inches from a second Harps goal when his daisy-cutter skimmed inches wide of the post from the edge of the penalty area when McHugh pulled back.
Mark Forker then was just of luck when his shot was deflected wide of the yawning goal by Anthony O’Donnell. Cobh, in the first half at least, were hanging on by the skin of their collective teeth.
However, just as the clock ticked towards 45 minutes and fourth official Brendan Kelly was about to indicate the one-minute stoppage time, Alan O’Flynn rose comfortably above the home defence from Deady’s in-swinging free-kick. However, with Gallagher at full stretch the visiting midfielder saw his header fade just wide.
There were scant few opportunities in the second half but a one-goal lead is always a precarious one. The period was generally devoid of incident but the home side, who lost McHugh to injury with seven minutes left, created little and were content to sit deeper and deeper.
On 70 minutes, from a free-kick from Deady that bounced back off the wall, Roy Kenny fizzed a shot inches over the crossbar and off into the night air. O’Neill, three minutes from time, almost forced a replay as when his effort was cleared off the goal-line by Ciaran Coll and Deady couldn’t keep the follow-up down.
However, just as time tipped from black to red, Meade popped up to restore parity and Ray Matthews’ final whistle was greeted with virtual silence.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Thomas McMonagle (Josh Mailey 83), Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Pat McCann, Sean McGowan, Mark Forker, Johnny Bonner (Lee Toland 66); Kevin McHugh (Paul McVeigh 83).
Subs not used: .
Cobh Ramblers: Shane Hallahan; John Meade, Brendan Frahill, Sean O’Mahony (Owen Hastings 25), Anthony O’Donnell; Alan O’Flynn (Jonathan Spillane 66), Andrew Bhrandarker (Daniel Santry 68), Roy Kenny, Martin Deady; Kynan Rocks, Davin O’Neill.
Subs not used: .
Referee: Ray Matthews.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Kevin McHugh (Finn Harps).