Former Irish Cup winner Paul Byrne has hailed David Jeffrey as the “lionheart of Irish League football”.
Jeffrey’s Ballymena United booked their place in the semi-finals of the cup with a penalty shootout win over Larne on Saturday.
Despite trailing 2-0 and 3-1 they rallied to earn 3-3 draw after 120 minutes of thrilling action at the Showgrounds.
Read more:Irish Cup semi-final draw sees North Belfast derby and repeat of 2020 final
And the Sky Blues held their nerve from the spot to took a semi-final date with Glentoran.
Byrne – who won the Irish Cup with Bangor back in 1993 – lauded Jeffrey for leading his team into battle on Saturday, and emerging with a massive win.
“We said it would be game of the day and it sure was,” Byrne told BBC’s Sportsound.
“Six goals and the penalty kicks, credit to both teams. Irish Cup football, you just can’t beat it.
“I have known David Jeffrey for a long, long time now, and I would put him down as the lionheart of Irish League football.
“And by god he got the best out of those players today. It was a lion’s performance.”
He added: “Larne came out a totally different team in the second half, I don’t know if they thought they had it sewn up.
“Credit to Ballymena, they battled on really well and got a well deserved result.
“It is a poor season for Larne now, they are going back to the drawing board and we will see what happens after this.”
Former Glentoran midfielder and manager Scott Young also praised Jeffrey and his players for grinding out their win.
The writing looked on the wall for Ballymena after Larne raced into an early 2-0 and then 3-1 lead.
But each time Jeffrey’s players responded to force the game to extra-time and then penalties.
On-loan goalkeeper Sean O’Neill saved from Matty Lusty and Lee Bonis, while Caolan Loughran held his nerve to dispatch the deciding penalty to seal a 4-3 shootout win.
“It is a tremendous day for Ballymena, and they deserved it,” Young said.
“To be 2-0 down and come back, and play the way they did They took the game to Larne, especially in the second half. They are deserving winners.
“When you win a penalty shootout it is a fantastic feeling, and when you lose it is devastating.
“It was great value for money and a great advertisement for Irish League football.
“But I can’t help think Larne’s players and staff will go home tonight and think ‘we were 2-0 up’.
“But that’s cup football and it happens. You have to take your hat off to Ballymena. Big Davy, how he gets a tune out of players is unbelievable.
“And he has got his club into another semi-final.”
Read more: Irish Cup quarter-finals: Ballymena Utd in penalty shootout joy as they join Glentoran and Crusaders in semis
Read more: Larne tapping into the insight and experience of former Premier League manager Iain Dowie
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