Ballynahinch were in seventh heaven after defeating derby rivals Down 7-3 to book their place in the semi-finals of the Sussex Regiment Cup.

The last group game in the competition played under the floodlights on Wednesday evening of last week may not have had the usual blood and thunder feel about it, but the match produced 10 goals to delight a large crowd.

Ballynahinch skipper Leslie Harrison grabbed a hat-trick and it was his first goal in the third minute which set the locals on the road to what in the end was an easy cup win.

Down were missing Gavin Ringland, Paul Tate and Mark Elliott, but there were also notable absentees from the Ballynahinch squad, namely Mark and Gary Graham and Andy McIlwaine.

Both sides served up a great match, with the visitors struggling to get a grip of the game in the middle of the park where Stuart Hunter was outstanding. His amazing close control and penetrating runs were a feature of Ballynahinch's play on the night as Down struggled to get near him.

Ballynahinch created two early attacks, with Alex Millar and David Bolton prevented from entering the Down penalty area by Alasdair Duff and Aaron Ferris respectively.

The opening goal came in the third minute after Harrison and former Down player Adam McKee combined to win a short corner. Bolton's push out was stopped by Ashley Brown, with Harrison producing a clinical strike for the opener.

Down almost got back into the game moments later following a mazy Chris Taylor run, but his cross into the penalty area evaded William Fryer who couldn't produce the touch needed to test Ballynahinch 'keeper Mark Brown.

Duff produced a swift tackle to rob Hunter of possession and then Jason Campbell missed a glorious opportunity to put the home side 2-0 ahead when he rushed his shot with just Jeremy McCready to beat.

Ballynahinch's second short corner of the night should have produced a second goal, but the players opted for a different routine and then Hunter unselfishly squared the ball when he should have had a crack at goal in the ninth minute.

Down's James Erskine blocked a goal-bound Hunter shot moments later, before Alex Millar denied Taylor a shooting opportunity at the other end. The home side made it 2-0 in the 16th minute from a short corner.

The push out found its way back to Bolton via Brown and Harrison and the Ballynahinch man had the easy task of pushing the ball into the net with the home defenders all at sea.

A minute later, Taylor missed a chance to make it 2-1 from Down's first short corner of the night before Sinclair White scored with the first of two blistering short corner strikes during the cup tie.

Two minutes later, Ballynahinch restored their two-goal advantage when Harrison drilled another short corner strike into the net before McCready somehow managed to palm away an Andrew Mulholland shot which took a wicked deflection off Erskine's stick.

With six minutes of the half remaining, Ballynahinch made it 4-1. Harrison and Millar combined and when the latter's shot was saved, McKee reacted quickest in the penalty area to poke the ball home. McCready then produced a smart save to deny Hunter in the 33rd minute.

Harrison should have made it 5-1 within minutes of the restart but his goal-bound shot was saved before Down's Fryer scored to make it 4-2 with a brilliant reverse stick finish, sending the ball into the top right hand corner of the net during a goalmouth melee.

An uncharacteristic mistake by Erskine allowed Hunter to take the ball off him and run into the penalty area to score past McCready to make it 5-2 in the 45th minute, while three minutes later Ballynahinch led 6-2 when Harrison completed his short-corner hat-trick. It looked as though the ball was too far away from his body for a strike on goal, but he got tremendous purchase on it to send it crashing into the net.

Bolton was denied by McCready in 53rd minute, with Brown denying Taylor at the other end. Fryer and Millar went close for their respective sides before Matty Peters set up Campbell to make it 7-2.

In the dying seconds, the hard-working White produced that second blistering short corner strike to make it 7-3, with both sides now looking forward to this Sunday's back-to-back semi-finals at Deramore.