In a year in which the club celebrates 50 years in football, Letterkenny Rovers marked that anniversary in style by capturing the League Cup with victory over Drumkeen on Sunday evening.
Letterkenny Rovers 5
Drumkeen United 3
(After extra time)
Rovers however, needed extra time before eventually killing off the challenge of Drumkeen who showed no end of resilience by coming from 3-1 to send this decider to extra time.
But it was during that period of extra time that Rovers’ class came to the surface and they scored two clinical goals to seal the win. In the early minutes of the first period of extra time, a brilliantly worked goal involving Anthony Gorman and Jonathan Minnock ended with Chris Malseed steering the ball home.
Then right at the death, Davitt Walsh raced clear on goal and clipped the ball over the outrushing keeper, Paul McCauley. It was a simply wonderful finish from the Kerrykeel man, his second of he night.
In truth, Rovers should have had this final killed off in normal time. Leading 3-1, they looked comfortably in control but despite creating several good chances, they allowed Drumkeen back into the game when Conor Carlin struck for his second of the game with 20 minutes remaining.
Even after that, Letterkenny were the better side but with the game entering injury time, Richie Moore drew Drumkeen level. A corner from the right was headed clear to the edge of the area where Moore was on hand to fire the ball through the crowded goalmouth and into the bottom corner.
Moore, normally a striker, had been asked to play in a much deeper role as Drumkeen’s ploy of playing five in midfield worked a treat early on. They were in front on 18 minutes when a mistake in the Rovers defence allowed Conor Carlin the chance to shoot and his dipping volley flew in past James Gallagher.
Well organised at the back where Ryan Gildea stood out, Drumkeen held that lead until just before half time when first half substitute, Mark Forker created the opening on the right. His ball into Walsh was neatly set up for Jamie Doherty who cracked the ball home from just inside the area.
Both teams had chances in the early stages of the second half – Gallagher saved at the feet of Carlin after another slip in the Rovers defence. But Letterkenny scored twice in the space of three minutes around the hour mark to take control of this final.
They went 2-1 in front when Gorman and Minnock were again involved in the build-up and Walsh slipped the ball home from Jamie Doherty’s delivery.
Drumkeen were still recovering from that set-back when an inswinging Minnock corner was glanced in off the far post by Rovers captain, Glen Hamilton.
But credit to Drumkeen, they managed to take the game to extra time with those goals from Carlin and Moore only to succumb in extra time.
Letterkenny Rovers: James Gallagher, Conal McGonigle, Jonathan Minnock, Glen Hamilton, Dan O’Donnell, Chris Malseed, Garbhan Grant (Mark Forker 29), Anthony Gorman, Paddy McNulty, Davitt Walsh, Jamie Doherty.
Drumkeen Utd.: Paul McCauley, Gary Patton (Sean Gallagher 94), Benny Bonner, Ryan Gildea, Ray Quinn, Chris Kyle, Raymond Sweeney (Lee McMonagle 50), David Craig (Peter McNamee 62), Conor Carlin, Richie Moore, Sean Ferry.
Referee: Stephen Toner
Assistants: Packie Coll, Joe McHugh.
Man of the match
This was a day when experience was key. Rovers have a number of players who have played at senior level and they all stood out as Eamon McConigley’s men gridned out the win. Anthony Gorman, easily the oldest player on the pitch at 42, was superb at centre midfield and while Davitt Walsh will get the plaudits for his two goals, Gorman’s contribution was just as impressive. He probably just shades the man of the match award, but Rovers also had good displays from Minnock at left back, young Jamie Doherty, Paddy McNulty and Glen Hamilton.
Drumkeen can take heart from a great team performance, even if they will be disappointed with some of the goals they conceded. At the back, Ryan Gildea was excellent while in midfield, Chris Kyle played well as did Sean Ferry and Conor Carlin who scored two of their goals.
The equaliser from Richie Moore right at the end of normal time which ensured this decider went to extra time. The No. 10 found himself outside the area when a Drumkeen corner was headed clear and he fired an unstoppable effort through a ruck of players and in past the unsighted James Gallagher.
Not the easiest game to handle for the officials. A number of their decisions were hotly contested by players and those on either bench and much of referee, Stephen Toner’s time was spent dishing out yellow cards or stern warnings.
Despite all the rain over the weekend, the pitch at Dry Arch Park was in superb condition and those in attendance were treated to a real goal-fest.
The Drumkeen supporters may well have been sensing that a shock could be on the cards when their team took the game to extra time. But Rovers managed to avoid the dreaded penalty shoot-out with two well taken goals in the 20 minutes of extra time.
McConigley dedicates cup win to Dessie
Eight years on from their last victory in this competition, Letterkenny Rovers manager, Eamonn McConigley savoured the club’s latest success and dedicated the win to Rovers’ chairman, Dessie Kelly.
Dessie had been in hospital for a procedure in the days leading up to the final but managed to watch the game from the comfort of the car on Sunday. And later on Sunday evening, the manager and his captain, Glen Hamilton, broke off from the celebrations to pay a quick visit to Dessie’s home with the cup.
“I’m over the moon for the club and for the people that’s in it,” Eamonn said. “It’s 50 years (old) this year. I was arranging to up to the hospital with the cup to Dessie but I was informed that he was here at the match.”
Dessie and the rest of the Rovers contingent must have thought their team had blown their chances by throwing away a 3-1 lead in the closing stages of normal time. McConigley though, said Drumkeen showed a great attitude to get themselves back in the contest.
“To be 3-1 up and then to give away the goals we did was disappointing,” he said. “In saying that, I must give them great credit for having such character to be able to come back. We were able to go on in extra time and finish off the game. It just shows the character that’s in the team. Hopefully this will carry us on for the rest of the season.”
He added: “Fair play to the lads, they showed great character. In the first period of extra time we scored a good goal and I’m sure that finish at the end, for any footballer watching the way Davitt finished that goal, it was just absolutely fantastic.”