What a game for Strand to have lost and I am sure they will have nightmares over the chances they failed to convert as they dominated the second half over its entirety.
But, cup football can be both cruel and kind and on this occasion, Rathcoole got the rub of the green as they now look forward to a final appearance against Blackpool Celtic on Friday, October 28 at 7pm.
Strand threatened within three minutes when Adam O’Keeffe headed narrowly over from Colm Lyne’s corner and after Diarmuid McDonough’s low effort was held by Kieran O’Connor, Anthony Dennehy had a half chance at the other end, but control let him down as Kelleher picked comfortably.
Strand forced the play after that and from Michael O’Mahony’s pass, Jessy O’Regan fired a decent effort wide from a narrow angle.
Strand came close minutes later when from Dominic Kelleher’s free kick, Sean Lynch was denied when Kieran O’Connor made a point blank save from his powerful header.
At the other end, Mark Dennehy would have had a gilt-edge opportunity were it not for a superb tackle in the box by Kevin Walsh.
And after Diarmuid McDonough checked to his right before firing a firm effort narrowly over, Aidan Downey headed straight at Kelleher from Brian O’Keeffe’s free kick at the other end.
Rathcoole’s Anthony Dennehy out-muscled his marker to make in-roads through on goal, but was thwarted by a fine block from Dominic Kelleher.
With just two minutes into the second period, Rathcoole took the initiative and it arrived when a terrific glancing header by Mark Dennehy from O’Keeffe’s corner, nestled in the net off the inside of the far post.
An immediate response from Strand then saw Jessy O’Regan knocking it back for Colm Lyne who found Patrick Doyle on the inside to drill an effort that cleared the bar by just inches.
And when Jessy O’Regan crossed low, Doyle stole through, but could not get a vital touch in the end.
Rathcoole broke after being under pressure and when Mark Dennehy played it square, Jack Hanover let it go for Brian O’Keeffe to rifle over.
Strand were pressing hard now and a chance arrived for them when a lovely ball from Sean Lynch reached Patrick Doyle, but he poked wide to waste a great opportunity.
But, it was all square again when pure perseverance forced Patrick Doyle through to eventually stab home the equaliser on 65 minutes.
Strand looked full of energy now as they went flat out for the winner with Sean Lynch collecting from Doyle before shooting across goal.
Then, Doyle had a great chance, but somehow fired wide with the goal gaping.
Diarmuid McDonough then produced a marvellous run down the left before squaring for Jessy O’Regan who was denied by a fine save from Kieran O’Connor.
But, fortune favoured the brave and when Kelleher spilled, Rathcoole’s Anthony Dennehy was on hand to poke home his side’s second on 80 minutes.
Strand went gung-ho after that and threw caution to the wind as they searched frantically for an equaliser and after Kevin Walsh fired a decent effort wide, the woodwork came to Rathcoole’s rescue when Gareth O’Leary saw his firm effort come off the butt of the upright before being cleared to safety.
With seconds to go, Strand were awarded a penalty, but alas, it was not to be for Strand on the day as Sean Lynch struck the crossbar before referee Tony Thompson brought closure to the contest.
Strand Utd A: Dominic Kelleher, Colm Lyne, Patrick Healy, Adam Scott, Kevin Walsh, Michael O’Mahony, Sean Lynch, Adam O’Keeffe, Jessy O’Regan, Diarmuid McDonough and Patrick Doyle.
Subs: Gareth O’Leary and Tommy Buckley for Patrick Doyle and Jessy O’Regan (80), Kascper Smardz for Bekim Kepaj (88).
Rathcoole Rovers: Kieran O’Connor, Declan Murray, Bekim Kepaj, Jimmy Herlihy, Aidan Downey, Ardit Bushataj, Mark Dennehy, Brian O’Keeffe, Jack Hanover, Simon Murphy and Anthony Dennehy.
Subs: Sebastian Jaskkolka for Jack Hanover (69), Mark Moynihan and Jack Murphy for Brian O’Keeffe and Anthony Dennehy (80).
Referee: Tony Thompson.