Ever since the Irish 5th Round draw in mid December everyone at the Millbridge have been focused on the 12th January 2013 when they would have visited Danske Premiership team Coleraine. A score line of 7-0 while it is disappointing is no reflection of the experience that each and everyone associated with United enjoyed and that is exactly what they did.
At 10.30am the coach party containing the committee and players left Millbridge and after a short stop for breakfast in Cloughmills they arrived at the Coleraine Showgrounds.
Just before 3pm the two teams took to the field with United accompanied by a small army of youthful mascots. There was considerable excitement particularly amongst the visiting Ballynahinch United support which numbered in excess of 100 – an outstanding turnout for a small amateur club.
Very soon the referees whistle was blown and it was game on with United facing a full strength Coleraine such was the home teams determination to progress in this competition and not to be the victims of a giant killing.
From the outset Oran Kearney’s experienced team were on the attack spraying the ball across the pitch with precision. The most prominent player for the home team was Jamie Tomelty, a new signing from Portadown. For all their possession Coleraine never really caused United any serious problems with their defence of Boal, Bowman, Hayes, Brashaw and Herron working their socks off supported by midfielders Carlisle, Hunter, Stuart McMullan and Cheevers. Brian McMullan’s handling was superb while he made a number of excellent saves in the first half particularly one from Curtis Allen which took a wicked deflection of Hayes and as it dipped under the bar he palmed it over the cross bar.
United were not without their attacking opportunities with a Hunter free kick against the Coleraine defensive wall and a Stuart McMullan shot flashing across the face of goal. Lone forward Ian McMullan worked tirelessly up front and received a fair degree of physical attention from the experienced Coleraine central defensive pairing of Beverland and Ogilvy.
The half time whistle came and as both teams headed for the changing room United did so to a resounding chorus of cheers from their supporters while the Coleraine faithful were somewhat muted in their support fearing a potential upset might be on the cards.
The opening exchanges of the second half were much the same as the first however in the 51st minute everything changed when a delightful through ball was dummied by Allen and as it fell to his strike partner Harkin he placed it into Allen’s path which he slotted into the net out of the reach of McMullan’s outstretched hand.
In the 56th minute United found themselves 2-0 down and worse still a man down after Davy Boal was red carded for an off the ball tussle in the penalty area with McIlmoyle the Coleraine player escaping any punishment. Ruairi Harkin scored from the resulting penalty.
Manager Colin Murray introduced substitute Jay Smyth for the injured Ian McMullan but with a man down it was to be one way traffic. During the remainder of the game Scott McKibbin replaced JJ Carlisle and McCauley Foster came on for Adam Herron.
Heroic defensive displays by Hayes and Brashaw at the centre of a besieged United defence could not save the day even though Brian McMullan produced at least five world class saves.
In the 65th minute United had legitimate claims for a penalty when a shot appeared to come of a Coleraine defender’s hand but the referee waived away the claims.
Coleraine with the wind in their sails pressed home their superiority in every respect and they scored another five goals through Paul Owens, Stephen Lowry  the first of which was an absolute pile driver, another Ruairi Harkin penalty and Coleraine’s very own Stewart McMullan with his first ever competition goal.
While United were probably glad to hear the final whistle they nevertheless had given a good account of themselves and their efforts were recognised by their fans with a standing ovation from both home and visiting fans.
The Irish Cup adventure may be over but the important games are certainly not as they face local rivals Temple Rangers at the Millbridge in the first round of the Clarence Cup. The kick off is at 1.30pm.