Champions Lifford Celtic topple leaders Rathmullan

Champions Lifford Celtic topple leaders Rathmullan
While those from Rathmullan do like to be beside the seaside, in Lifford they are more than at home in the marshy surroundings of Greenbrae.

While those from Rathmullan do like to be beside the seaside, in Lifford they are more than at home in the marshy surroundings of Greenbrae.

Lifford Celtic 3

Rathmullan Celtic 1

Last season’s Brian McCormick Sports Premier Division champions served up a timely reminder that they’re not going to relinquish that title without a fight.

Stuart Carlin shot the home team in front before a minute had been played and Johnny Robb soon doubled that lead with a delicate header.

Oisin McMenamin got league leaders Rathmullan back into the match before half-time and although the contest was in the balance for the second half, Mark Neeson’s deflected shot sealed three points for Lifford.

Seven days earlier Neeson had struck in the depths of stoppage time to snatch a 2-2 draw at second-placed Glenea United.

And if that was a heartening way to conclude a game, Sunday proved an equally satisfying way to start one.

Kevin McBrearty’s free-kick from deep was headed well clear but Shay Coyle from a crowded Rathmullan penalty area.

Carlin sat secluded by the angle of the penalty area and half-volleyed Coyle’s clearance back across the dive of Ian Strain and into the bottom corner. Only 52 seconds had been played.

Lifford’s familiarity with the heavy underfoot conditions meant their guests had to play catch-up. Rathmullan were fortunate not to go tow down when Strain managed to block Declan Lafferty’s effort from a centre by Alan Gethins.

Seventeen minutes in, Lifford went 2-0 up when Gethins, who saw his initial corner cleared back to him, put a cross on the head of Robb to glance home.

Rathmullan had to plug the hole in the bucket and fight their way back into the contest and their best chance of the first half came when Kieran Gorman, from a cross from Paddy Craig Sheridan, drew a save from Lee White.

Having pulled themselves from the CT Ball Division Two to the top of the Premier Division in less than four season, Rathmullan have proven their capabilities to get themselves out of a scrape or two.

In the competitive altercations with all the footprints of mid-January football, McMenamin headed home from close range having been set up by Paddy Sheridan when Lifford failed to clear a delivery from Eoin Sheridan.

The intensity failed to wain after the restart and both teams held their own.

Midway through the second half, Rathmullan had a chance to go 3-1 up when Alan Gethins found a corridor of opportunity down the inside right channel.

The Lifford frontman probably made his angle too acute with a touch too many and Strain got down to save.

Then, at the other end, Dara Patton was just wide and following some commendable trickery on the byline from joint-manager Patrick Patton, Gorman stooped to head narrowly off target.

But whatever chances there were lingering in the dusking skies of a Rathmullan equaliser were quashed five minutes from time .

Neeson’s pop at goal took a huge defection off the unfortunate Gorman and looped - almost in slow motion - over Strain.

Lifford Celtic: Lee White; Stuart Carlin, David O’Herlihy, Marcus McDonnell, Kevin McBrearty; Declan Lafferty, Johnny Mahon, Mark Neeson, David Gethins; Jonny Robb, Alan Gethins.

Rathmullan Celtic: Ian Strain; Paddy Patton, Kieran Gorman, Shay Coyle, Paddy ‘Craig’ Sheridan; Eoin Sheridan, Aaron McClafferty (Ryan Connolly 59), Paddy S Sheridan, Oisin McMenamin; Dara Patton (Kevin Doran 79), Eamonn Sheridan.

Referee: Paddy Duffy.

Ref watch

Paddy Duffy heard a few complaints from both sides in a match that was tricky enough - because of the conditions - to officiate on.

Man of the match

Lifford got off to the best of starts and that two-goal lead gave them something to hold onto. Rathmullan certainly put them under pressure for spells but David O’Herlihy and, in particular, Marcus McDonnell, were firm at the back.

Turning point

The match was very much in the balance and Rathmullan certainly were not being discounted when Lifford lead 2-1 for the guts of 46 minutes.

The was an element of fortune about Mark Neeson’s goal for Lifford but it guaranteed the three points.