Letterkenny Rovers 3
Fanad United 3
Two second half goals from central defender Glen Hamilton rescued a point for Letterkenny Rovers in their opening Donegal News League Cup fixture against Fanad United at Leckview Park on Thursday evening.
It was an unlikely source of a brace as the visitors had led by three goals to one at the interval with Alan Gethins – who was later sent off – and former player Kieran Gorman causing some consternation for Rovers manager Eamon McConigley. Darren McElwaine had cancelled out Gorman’s opening goal.
Rovers’ first scheduled outing in the competition against Swilly Rovers had been postponed due to a death in Ramelton, while Fanad had hammered Buncrana Hearts by five goals to one to get their involvement off to a flying start.
An eventful first half produced four goals and it was Fanad, who were without their manager Ollie Horgan, that took control. Horgan was in Wales in his role as manager of the Irish schoolboys in the Centenary Cup, overseeing a 2-2 draw as Colm McGonagle and Micky Rodgers manned the touchline at Leckview.
Both teams shared decent chances before the Triaghalough team took the lead on 31 minutes. From a corner by teen Daire McDaid, Gorman hit Lee McFadden’s crossbar with a header before Gethins gobbled up the rebound to head home from close ranges. Rovers had failed to deal with McDaid’s dead ball delivery and it was an ailment that would be shared at both ends of the pitch all evening.
Rovers levelled within four minutes, though, and it was certainly the goal of the game. Jamie Doherty set Jonathan Minnock away and the former Finn Harps defender rounded Shaun McElwaine to centre for Darren McElwaine to thump home first time for the equaliser. It was a goal made and finished in Convoy.
However, just when the hosts seem to have got back on their feet, they were flattened with two goals in three minutes. On 37 minutes, a long free into the home penalty area from Brian Lafferty saw Christopher Patton flattened by his own player, John Doherty. Gorman snuck in at the back post to steer into the empty net.
It was to get worse for Rovers before it got any better two minutes later. From another McDaid corner, Eunan Kelly had won the flick and Gethins put his side 3-1 in front to complete the scoring in an eventful first 45 minutes.
The home support knew a tightening of the purse strings at the back was essential in the second half, as was something to chow down their arrears. Four minutes into part two, Rovers halved their deficit when, following a corner from Minnock, Hamilton steered home as Fanad failed to clear.
Then, on 69 minutes, Hamilton was on the mark again from another inadequately defended corner. This time it was Mark Forker who delivered and the central defender made no mistake, restoring parity with time still to play with.
Both teams had chances to win it, but neither took them and the last action of an interesting evening saw referee Stephen Toner book Hamilton for a foul on Gethins, before showing the Fanad frontman a straight red for kicking out in retaliation.
Letterkenny Rovers: Christopher Patton; Josh Mailey, John Doherty, Glen Hamilton, Jonathan Minnock; Graham Cullen, Gareth Boyle, Mark Forker, Jamie Doherty; Darren McElwaine (Ryan Carlin 86), Mark Harkin.
Fanad United: Lee McFadden; Shaun McElwaine, Darren McGowan (Aidan Sweeney 79), Kieran Gorman, Daire McDaid; Brian Lafferty, Seamus Friel, Christy Connaghan (Ryan Toland 79), Mark Friel; Eunan Kelly (Kyle Black 83), Alan Gethins.
Referee: Stephen Toner.
In a game of considerable ebb and flow it’s tough to pinpoint one instance but Glen Hamilton’s goal four minutes into the second half swung the balance of power back in favour of the home team.
Stephen Toner had little choice to but send Alan Gethins from the field with two minutes to go. It wasn’t overly malicious from the Fanad striker but he was punished rightly for a moment of petulance.
Man of the match
Alan Gethins spoiled his chances with his late dismissal so Rovers central defender Glen Hamilton gets the award for getting his side a point when they had been staring down to barrel.