C of I started without injured international Karl Burns, but in truth, Quins had the whip hand on them anyway and, even if the situation was balanced by Sean Nicholson leaving the fray after 10 minutes as his injured ankle ligaments failed to withstand the pressure, the better of the two teams won on the day.
Harlequins coach Stephen Dale said afterwards that his side would probably be favourites to win in Kilkeel next week, but they would need another concerted team performance like that which secured the win against C of I.
“Once we got the opening goal, we knew they were going to have to come at us and we knew we could counter and that’s the way it happened,” he said.
“Richard (Gash) got two great goals, but we’ve come to expect that of him as he is an out-and-out goal scorer. But this was a team performance and we had to work midfield tirelessly to get the upper hand.
“The players now know we are good enough to win this competition. We’ve been there or thereabouts for several years now, but haven’t cracked it yet and there is a bit to go still, but we want to win this competition.”
C of I enjoyed most of the early pressure in the game, but Gash’s first-time shot on 18 minutes settled the home side’s nerves and when goalie Wes Bateman pulled off an incredible flying save from a C of I short corner just on half-time, the game appeared to be slipping away from the visitors.
However, Quins appeared to allow the tempo drop in the second half and were unwilling to push for the winner as C of I tried vainly to manufacture an opening. Then, with just 10 minutes left, Paul Lombard made an intercept on the half-way line and fed Gash who picked his spot before beating Mark Ruddle with a fine shot.
With the likes of Conor Harte and John Hobbs outstanding in defence and Lee d’Alton, the Black brothers and Dave Egner all working tirelessly, Quins closed the game out and now travel to Kilkeel more in expectation than in hope.
After the other quarter-finals, Glenanne will also travel north, having drawn Lisnagarvey in the semis.
Glenanne’s 1-0 win over Annadale on Saturday at Lough Moss was a hard-fought affair, as was expected in a game involving two unbeaten sides topping their respective leagues.
“It was a cat and mouse game from start to finish” said Glenanne coach Rory O’Donoughue. “It was sticking out from the very start that the first team to score would shut up shop and revert to a defensive game thereafter.
“The strange thing about the match was that neither side won a penalty corner throughout the 70 minutes. There was a couple of chances that fell to both sides but Stephen Butler’s goal five minutes from the end suited us nicely the one time he got free from the close marking of Annadale’s David Smyth and scored the vital goal.”
In the other cup games, Lisnagarvey thrashed Corinthians 6-0 while Kilkeel prevailed 5-4 in a thriller against Banbridge.
In Munster, Belvedere scored their first win of the season in the Munster Senior League Division 1 when they came from behind to defeat Catholic Institute 3-1 at Ballincollig Community on Saturday.
Bandon moved into third place in the Munster Senior League Division 1 as a result of their 3-2 win over UCC at Bandon Grammar School on Saturday, while in Division 2, Cork Church of Ireland C picked up five points from their double header with Bandon B over the weekend.
On Friday night, the sides shared the points at Garryduff in a 1-1 draw, while yesterday at Bandon GS, C of I ran out easy 6-1 winners.
On Saturday at Bandon Grammar School, former Irish international Ger Burns came out of retirement to make his debut for Bandon C. Burns showed all his old skills as he helped Bandon to a 5-2 win over Galway in this Division 2 match.
Yesterday at the Mardyke, a last-second goal from Philip Burns earned Bandon C a 2-2 draw with UCC B, while at Rosbrien, Catholic Institute B kept their interest in the Division 2 title race alive when they defeated league leaders Cork Harlequins C 5-4.
In division 3, Ashton scored a 3-0 win over UCC C at the Mardyke yesterday, while at Harlequin Park, Cork Harlequins D defeated Galway B 4-2.