Danny McKee was the hero at the Bangor Fuels Arena as two second half goals and a winning penalty put Ards into their first senior cup final in 11 years.
Championship club Ards fought back from two-goals down to knock out much-fancied Premiership club Coleraine, before winning a dramatic shoot-out 5-3.
Substitute Danny McKee, on loan from Glentoran, cancelled out James McLaughlin’s two goals with a fine second half brace of headers, that included an 84th-minute equaliser. McKee kept up his heroics, stroking home the fifth spot-kick after McLaughlin had missed for the Bannsiders.
Coleraine took the lead in bizarre circumstances, in the 18th minute. James McLaughlin collected the ball inside the Ards half after Tommy Lambe lost his footing. The striker hit a speculative effort from nearly 30-yards.
With the wind at his back, McLaughlin’s shot took an unusual bounce off the 3G surface and skipped over the head of goalkeeper Ryan Brown. The in-form centre-forward got his reward for his audacity.
The Red & Blues hoped the wind would help them in the second half, but it was Coleraine who took grabbed the half by the neck. In the 50th minute, Garth Falconer feed the ball into Darren McCauley, who cut the ball across the face of goal, where James McLaughlin kept his composure to slip the ball home from less than 10-yards.
Ards almost pulled a goal back in the 57th minute, when Craig McMillen’s corner-kick was headed just over the bar by Denver Gage.
Ards did reduce the deficit in the 66th minute. David McAllister skipped down the left-flank before producing a fine sweeping cross towards the near-post. Substitute Danny McKee lost his marker, before guiding a six-yard header past Michael Doherty.
Niall Currie’s men kept up the pressure, finally getting their reward in the 84th minute.
Another fine Craig McMillen corner-kick was aimed towards Denver Gage, with a clearing header only reaching the edge of the area. Danny McKee reacted quickly, sending a looping 15-yard head beyond the reach of Doherty.
The large Coleraine support at the Clandeboye Road end screamed for a red card when goalkeeper Ryan Brown fouled James McLaughlin outside the area on the left-flank, but referee Kennedy opted for a yellow card. From the resulting set-piece, Brown saved Ruari Higgins 20-yard effort.
After a scoreless period of extra time, the game went to a shoot-out.
James Cully, Tommy Lambe and Gary Dorrian scored for Ards, while Sammy Morrow and Ruaidhri Higgins converted for Coleraine before James McLaughlin missed.
McLaughlin slipped in his run-up, before striking the post. Rory Carson and Lydon Kane exchanged goals, while McKee stroked home the winner to set-up a repeat of 1995 League Cup final between Ards and Cliftonville.
While Coleraine will look back on a missed opportunity to win a trophy, this was Ards’ night. This is a remarkable achievement for a club that continues to defy the odds.
Ards: Brown; Hall, Gage, Cully, Lambe; McMillen, Carson, Arthurs, D. McAllister (96 E. McAllister); Boyd (80 Dorrian), O’Neill (55 McKee). Subs: Browne, Warwick
Coleraine: Doherty; Kane, Douglas. Watt, Falconer; Lyons (93 Parkhill), McCafferty (98 Higgins), McCauley (70 Morrow), Harkin; Brown, McLaughlin. Subs: Higgins, Mullan, McGonigle
Ref: Keith Kennedy (Belfast)