TO say there was a dramatic end to the Donegal Premier League would be an understatement as a late, late equaliser from Paddy Sheridan at Flagpole Park, Rathmullan, saw Lifford Celtic lift their first ever Donegal League Premier title, when they defeated Dunkineely Celtic 2-0 at Darney, Bruckless.
Lifford, who won the first ever old Donegal League Division One in 1971, have waited a long time for this success but they needed the help of Rathmullan to leapfrog Glenea United to take the title.
Lifford did all they needed to do with goals from Declan Lafferty and Jude Patton in Bruckless, but the drama was in Rathmullan where Glenea stormed ahead 2-1 early on before Rathmullan hit back to lead 3-2. But Glenea responded and went 4-3 ahead before the late, late equaliser denied them the chance to put Premier titles back to back.
For Lifford Celtic manager, Joe McGee, it was an historic day. “It was unreal at the end. We thought Glenea had won and then there was this eruption of noise with two minutes to go. News had come through of Rathmullan’s equaliser.”
The Lifford manager said that they had just kept battling away. “Lifford weren’t mentioned in recent weeks and that’s the way we wanted it. Losing two cup finals (Brian McCormick and Ulster Junior Cup) in extra-time meant the boys knew what it was like to lose.”
He acknowledged, however, that they needed the help of Rathmullan and paid tribute to them for playing their full strength team.
“We have had a lot of disappointments since winning the old First Division in 1971 but it also means this victory is sweeter and we can enjoy it tonight.
“The difference this year was Lee White, who was joint manager. He started training last July and the boys worked very hard. At the end of the day you only get out of it what you put in,” said McGee.
The Lifford team which took the field against Dunkineely was: Lee White, Stewart Carlin, Daniel Carlin, Marcus McDonnell, Kevin McBrearty, Declan Lafferty (Seamus Gallagher), Mark Neeson (capt), Gavin Gallagher, Jude Patton, JP Malley (Damien Patton), Ross Porter (Mark Carlin).
Rathmullan Celtic 4
(M Barry 3, P McGee)
Glenea United 4
(D Patton 3, S Barrett)
Glenea started brightly and within two minutes were a goal to the good when their first meaningful attack. Goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher’s long kick out was met by the head of Donal Coll. His flick on was met by Michael Barry who controlled it perfectly and his low powerful shot left Ian Strain at full stretch but there was little he could do to keep it out. This helped settle the visitors. Sean McBride missed a glorious chance gifted by a Paddy Sheridan mistake after five minutes.
Rathmullan started to come back into the game and Darragh Patton won a free just outside the box. The distance and angle meant little him as his sweet strike saw the ball curl perfectly and hit the net making it 1-1.
Five minutes later Michael Barry was on target again for Glenea. Shea Coyle’s foul on Paul Sweeny saw Barry McGinley’s free fall to the feet of Barry whose swift turn and shot made it 2-1.
Sean Barrett almost levelled the game from a header which was cleared off the line.
Glenea had a Lee O’Brien header that found the back of the net ruled out for offside after a fingertip save from Stain from Barry McGinleys strong shot.
Rathmullan started the second half with an equaliser within the first two minutes when Darragh Patton pounced on a Paddy Sheridan pass.
Fifteen minutes into the half they went ahead for the first time in the match after Sean Barrett found himself getting on the end of a rebounded Ryan McFadden shot he connected with from a corner.
With Glenea’s title hopes slipping away they rallied hard and when Seamus McLaughlin sent Ryan McFadden crashing to the ground. Referee Kevin Logue pointed to the spot and Padraig McGee’s cool penalty in the 70th minute level the tie once again.
As the clock ticked down Glenea stepped up the pressure and with less than a minute to go in normal time there was wild scenes as Barry was put through for a one-on-one from a pass by Cuffe. He rifled home to make it 4-3 in the dying minutes. As it stood, they were on course to retain their league title, but Rathmullan still had a dramatic sting in their tail.
Three minutes into injury time Rathmullan’s Darragh Patton proved to be the party spoiler when his shot from a Paddy Sheridan free dramatically levelled the match and sealed Glenea’s fate handing the title to Lifford.
Rathmullan Celtic: Ian Stain, David Miller, Paddy Sheridan, Paddy Sheridan, Sean Barrett, Seamus McLaughlin, Donal Edward, Eoin Sheridan, Shea Coyle, Niall Doherty, Darragh Patton. Sub: Ryan Connelly for N Doherty. Gavin O’Donnell for S McLaughlin
Glenea United: Ciaran Gallagher, Barry McGinley, Kevin McFadden, Padraig McGee (0-1), Paul Sweeney, Sean Coll, Sean McBride, Ryan McFadden, Michael Barry (0-3), Donal Coll, Lee O’Brien. Subs: Brian Cuffe (Sent off 94min) for S Coll. Sean McGuire for S McBride, Shane Ferry for L O’Brien.
St. Catherine’s 2
Lagan Harps 1
St. Catherines played host to Lagan Harps on Sunday in Emerald Park. Both teams started the game very brightly and it was the Saints who took the lead on 19 minutes when Stephen Leslie swung the ball into the Lagan box and it was flicked on by Jason Noctor to Luke Kelly who put the ball into the Lagan net to put the Saints one up.
On 30 minutes Daniel Breslin had a free kick from outside the box but it went over the bar. Then on 37 minutes Lagan had a good shot but it was well saved by the Saints keeper.
Yet again Lagan had another headed chance but again it was well saved by the Saints keeper. Daniel Breslin had a shot that went just over the bar on 41 minutes. The 2nd half began with Lagan looking to get back on level terms and they started the sharper and they created a couple of chances but they came to nothing. On 55 minutes Lagan had another header that went just over the bar.
Then in the 59th minute Lagan were given a free kick and it was put into the Saints box and it was headed into the Saints net to make the scoreline 1-1. Both teams pushed very hard to try and get the winning goal and on 81 minutes Daniel Breslin went down the line and put in a brilliant cross to the back post and there was Barry Cannon to head the ball into the Lagan net to make the score 2-1 to the Saints.
In the final nine minutes Lagan pushed the Saints hard to try and get level but the Saints defence held out and they went on to get the three points.
Kilmacrennan Celtic 3
Castlefin Celtic 1
Kilmac ended the season picking up 3 points by defeating Castlefin. In a game that was reversed to Castlefin, it was Kilmac who settled quickest. Kilmac almost opened the scoring on 20 minutes when Gavin Gorman crossed for the in-rushing Timmy Burke. The breakthrough came on the half hour when Ryan Shields crossed for Michael McLaughlin who scored from close range. Castlefin equalised when Liam McBride’s attempted clearance was mishit and somehow spun back into the net for the most freakish of goals.
The second half was a lacklustre affair, it took a penalty save from Kilmac’s McBride to spur Kilmac into life with twenty minutes remaining. Kilmac took the lead five minutes later when Burke put Eddie Doherty through on goal. Doherty flicked the ball over the head of the out rushing Castlefin keeper and coolly headed in from ten yards. Doherty was involved in Kilmac’s third and final goal ten minutes later. His pin point cross was met on the volley by his brother Johnny for a spectacular finish to the game.
Referee: Paddy Martin
Old Orchard Inn Saturday Division One / Glencar Inn Saturday Division Two
Promotion /Relegation Play-Off
Kilmacrennan Celtic 2
Donegal Town Res 1
Kilmacrennan Celtic Reserves retained their Saturday Division One status when they defeated Donegal Town Reserves in this play-off match at Diamond Park, Ballyare.
Playing with the aid of a strong breeze it was the Donegal men who took an early lead. Club captain John Paul Byrne got the goal. Kilmacrennan equalised on thirty minutes when Timmy Burke scored.
Cathal Gallagher got the winner on sixty five minutes. Both sides will contest the same Divisions as they did in the 2012/’13 season.
Final Table for Brian McCormick Premier Division
P W L D F A Diff Pts
Lifford Celtic 18 13 4 1 36 17 19 40
Glenea United 18 12 3 3 45 24 21 39
Rathmullan C 18 9 5 4 46 24 22 31
Milford United 18 10 7 1 33 26 7 31
Kilmacrennan C 18 8 7 3 31 26 5 27
St Catherine 18 7 8 3 32 31 1 24
Gweedore Celtic 18 7 9 2 18 30 -12 23
Dunkineely C 18 5 9 4 35 40 -5 19
Lagan Harps 18 6 11 1 20 43 -23 19
Castlefin C 18 0 14 4 15 50 -35 4