Finn Harps manager Peter Hutton felt his side got exactly what they deserved when Cobh Ramblers pinched a 91st minute equaliser on Friday.
Finn Harps 1
Cobh Ramblers 1
The Cork side looked to be heading out of the competition only for John Meade to get the slightest of touches onto Davin O’Neill’s free-kick and equalise.
You could’ve heard a pin drop inside Finn Park. Harps had nine toes in the quarter-finals after Kevin McHugh’s opener.
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.
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.
“We’re bitterly disappointed as we could have put ourselves in the hat,” Hutton said.
“To be honest, we got what we deserved as we were very poor in the second half. In the first we weren’t too bad.
“We made a lot of chances but sat much too deep in the second half. Cobh just pumped the ball up and played percentage football.
“We gave away possession far too cheaply.”
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.
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.
“We took our foot off the gas. I keep harping on and saying the same thing time and again but if the penny isn’t going to drop then players are going to have to move on.
“We can’t legislate for making the same mistakes over and over again over the course of the season.”
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).
Cobh Ramblers: Shane Brendan Frahill, John Meade, 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.
Referee: Ray Matthews.