Raphoe Hockey Club got the New Year off to an excellent start when they had Matthew Lecky to thank for sealing the Linden Cup for the first time in their history.
With less than three minutes remaining and the match destined for extra time against Bangor on Tuesday, Raphoe won their seventh penalty corner. This time Leckey made no mistake, sending the ball high into the roof of the net at Deramore Park on New Year’s Day.
“We made hard work of that,” said a delighted Ian McGonigle the Raphoe captain afterwards. “We had most of the possession but we just couldn’t get the killer goal.
“We totally dominated the second half but Bangor just seemed to be sitting in and tried to hit us on the break. Bangor hit us early on a counter attack with a sucker punch but the players dug deep and we got back at a crucial time just before half time.”
The win will, according to the captain, help the side who play their home games at the Royal & Prior in Raphoe, in their quest for promotion. They currently sit top of the Ulster Senior League Section One after a 4-1 win over South Antrim before Christmas.
“We will enjoy tonight, but we can only take one game at a time,” said McGonigle. “We have a tough game this Saturday against Portadown. So it will be back to training on Thursday but this is Raphoe’s first cup in many, many years and we have always come out on the wrong side of finals, so this makes a very nice change.”
With only seven minutes on the clock, Bangor caught the cup favourites cold when Simon Hunter smashed home a reverse stick shot to give the seasiders a surprise early lead.
But Raphoe began to find the form which has taken them to the top of Senior One, as they peppered the Bangor circle. However, there was one obstacle in their way. Andy Seay the Bangor keeper was in inspirational form, as he was stopping everything that Raphoe threw at him. The only question is, why was he allowed to wear a white shirt, the same colours as Raphoe?
On 22 minutes Seay dived like a cormorant to deny Gavin Leckey pushing the ball wide off the upright. But on 30 minutes Seay could do nothing, when William Kilpatrick took a quick free to himself just outside the Bangor circle, to drill home an unstoppable shot to level the score. It was a sickening time to score for Bangor but in all honesty it was no surprise, as the equaliser was coming.
The second half was all Raphoe, as they continued to put the Bangor defence under pressure and in the 45th minute, Seay again had the better of Gavin Leckey, as he denied the Raphoe forward from putting the County Donegal team into the lead.
With the game slipping towards the dreaded extra time, Raphoe won the seventh penalty corner of the game and up stepped Matthew Leckey, who nailed the ball to the back of the Bangor goal to give Raphoe the winner and send the Linden Cup to Donegal for the first time in its history.
Bangor captain, Dave McClune also congratulated Raphoe on their win. He said: “Disappointed in ourselves that the simple things just did not click. But many congratulations to Raphoe but hugely disappointing for our guys, unfortunately it is two years in a row.”
Raphoe: J Rankin, R Bates, L Coll, M Leckey, S Goudie, E Lyttle, W Kilpatrick, I McGonigle, J Long, G Leckey, G Patterson, A Meehan, P Stewart, R Tinney, M Buchannon.
Bangor: A Seay, P Snodden, S Scales, L Brennan, P Templeton, S McLean, S Hunter, R Cunningham, D McClune, P McCausland, M Ormsby, J Trimble, J Mottashaw, N McKeown, R Coughlin, D Edwards.