Things couldn’t be much tighter at the top of the CT Ball Division Two with three teams in with a chance of winning the title on Sunday – the last day of the season.
The top two meet by the banks of the river Finn, where Keadue Rovers, who lead the way on 36 points from 17 games, visit second placed Ballybofey United, who have a point less from the same amount of outings. Third place Cranford United are level with Ballybofey and welcome bottom placed Letterbarrow Celtic, therefore entering their own fixture as strong favourites.
So, to avoid all the confusion, it’s currently in Keadue’s hands. If they win in the Twin Towns they are champions, while if Ballybofey take the three points they will lift the trophy if Cranford come up short. For James Duffy’s Cranford, they need to win and if it’s a draw in the Twins Towns they’ll sneak it or if Ballybofey win they will play off with them. Terry Leyden might have to rent a helicopter.
“We’ve not played in the best part of a month at this stage,” Keadue joint-manager Derek Bonner said after his side’s four-week lay-off since defeating Bonagee United 3-0. “But although the Dungloe GAA team are back in action this weekend the game is on Saturday night against Gweedore. That means we’ll have important players like Ray and Adrian Sweeney and Doalty Boyle.
“Kieran Sharkey, our goalkeeper, is on honeymoon and won’t be back but we have Chris McGlynn to step in. The only real one we’re not sure about is Adrian Hanlon, who is involved the Donegal panel, but we’ll wait and see. Sean and Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle are involved with Naomh Mhuire so they will have a call to make.”
Keadue lost two important players in a season in which they took a while to come to the boil. Mark Forker joined Letterkenny Rovers and Paddy Bonner went to Australia but they haven’t been missed.
“Since before Christmas we’ve been on a great run so at this stage we wouldn’t be too happy with second place at this stage. From a team that was in the Ulster Senior League not so long ago we’ve been in freefall so want to get out of this league.”
Ballybofey have their problems as they await the side managed by Bonner and James Boyle. Player-manager and goalkeeper Eamonn McAuley is suspended having been sent off three weeks ago against Cranford United in a 1-0 home loss - a result that might gain even more significance come 4pm on Sunday.
Having taken over from Joe McGee, McAuley will have to spend Sunday in the dug-out as Damien Bradley - the former Fanad United netminder- deputises. And unlike Keadue, Ballybofey know that a draw is effectively useless, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing according to McAuley.
“For us, it’s a cup final really,” he said. “We have to win and it’s as simple as that. We were leading the league before Chrismas but the day we got caught was against Drumbar in November. Until then they had been struggling and playing teams at the Lakeside in Ballyshannon and losing, but they took us to their own patch and beat us 4-3. It was a real kick in the teeth for us but we’ve shown decent form since then and are still in with a shout. Whatever about the title, we know a win on Sunday will at worst mean we’re promoted and if we get the win and Cranford manage the same it’ll be a play-off for the title.”
Cranford might be third right now but in a funny way they could be in the best position of the three. Away from the spotlight and with the pressure off they are home to a Letterbarrow Celtic team with only four points without so much as a win all season.
“We might be expected to win but we only managed a draw to Letterbarrow the last time and that is a warning to us,” Duffy said. “At this stage we know a win will get us promoted and that was the objective at the start. We just want to win on Sunday and get our job done and then anything else will be a bonus.
“We’ve had a decent season. We’ve managed to beat Keadue Rovers twice, winning 3-1 away and then 4-2 at home, but there’s always days you look back on. We were one up at Glenree and lost 2-1 but with Philip and Shane Buchanan we’ve been playing well of late and Shane especially was on fire last weekend, scoring four against Copany Rovers. If those two can fire we certainly have a chance but as I said, we’ll not to be looking to Ballybofey for the result before we have our own job done first.”
P W L D F A GD Pts
Keadue Rovers FC 17 11 3 3 49 27 22 36
Ballybofey United17 11 4 2 34 16 18 35
Cranford FC 17 10 2 5 32 14 18 35