Cockhill claimed the Ulster Senior League title after a 3-2 victory over second placed Drumkeen United at a sun baked Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds on Sunday.
Cockhill Celtic 3
Drumkeen United 2
The home side needed the win to secure the title but the nerves played a part in this tense battle. Drumkeen, the visitors, settled the better and Semus Nani Friel was an outlet right from the off when he forced a corner in the opening minute, Gavin Cullen was strong to punch the ball clear after it dropped inside the six yard box.
Drumkeen then were forced into a substitute in the ninth minute when Chris Kyle was replaced by Mark Marley. Mickey Rogers side took the lead on 21 minutes when their latest signing Ronan Coyle got in down the right channel and after Cullen saved his initial shot he poked the ball goalwards but after Cockhill’s Kieran McLaughlin cleared the ball it bounced off the helpless Johnny Havlin into the empty net.
Cockhill responded well and on 28 minutes Garbhain Friel curled a delightful ball from the right to the back post that just eluded Aiden O’Donnells outstretched leg with the keeper stranded. As the half ticked by Cockhill started to create more openings and Drumkeens keeper McCauley had to be smart to save from Aiden O’Donnell after a deep cross from James
Cockhill then were awarded a penalty on 39 minutes when Aiden O’Donnell was clipped by the outstretched leg of McCauley as he pounced on a week backpass from the Drumkeen rearguard. The ref issued only a yellow card as the ball was heading away from goal even though the keeper was the last man. Cockhill’s Friel held his nerve to side foot the ball powerfully past the keepers left hand to level the game at 1-1. Cockhill then had to replace O’Donnell with Mark Moran after O’Donnell failed to recover from the challange by keeper McCauley
Cockhills Moran had the first chance off the second period when he picked up the ball on the right skipped past Bonner in the left back area but his low drive fizzed past the far post to the keepers right.
As the game entered the final quarter it was evenly balanced with Drumkeen having nothing to loose they started to play more open and stretch the game more. Oisin McColgan got caught under the ball for the home side and when Richie Moore picked up the ball he played a great low cross into the box behind the Cockhill defence but Carlin was late to anticipate.
Cockhill opened up the visitors defence on 72 minutes but both Liam O’Donnell and Friel had efforts blocked in quick succession.
Cockhill took the lead on 75 minutes when Malachy McDermott produced the games first bit of magic. Moran, who had looked lively since his introduction late in the first half, fizzed the ball at McDermott to the left of the Drumkeen Box 25 yards from goal, McDermott shifted the ball onto his right foot and sent a pile driver to the roof of the net much to the delight of the home bench and support.
Cockhill went 3-1 up on 86 minutes when Moran made space on the edge of the area to shoot powerfully low into the net from 18 yards. This sparked real celebrations on the pitch as the Cockhill dugout emptied to celebrate on the pitch with the players. When the play resumed the Hoops retreated and defended deep knowing that they had a two goal cushion to see them over the line.
That two goal cushion was reduced to one when Seamus ‘Nani’ Friel showed the other moment of magic in the game but curling a superb 25 yard free up and over the wall into the top corner.
Drumkeen pushed for the leveller but really deep down knew that they really need a win to have the best chance to claim the title, as the visitors pushed and committed more men forward Friel had a chance to kill the game by squaring the ball but he delayed his pass and the chance was gone.
The last chance arrived in the fourth minute off added on time but Eunan Kellys header under pressure was high and wide. The referee blew his whistle following the kickout and the celenrations began for the Cockhill Celtic FC players and faithful. Cockhill add the league title to the League Cup from last week making it their second double in four years.