They were celebrating in Copany and Laghey last night as Copany Rovers cliniched the CT Ball Division Two title after drawing with Raphoe.
Copany Rovers 1
Raphoe Town 1
The home side needed just a draw to clinch the title and bridge a 23 year gap. It may not have been pretty but the huge crowd that turned out at Killowen Park weren’t too worried about that.
The team celebrated after Liam Farren blew the final whistle after they were made sweat with a late equaliser from Raphoe Town.
The gale force wind made it very difficult for the players, who to their credit, tried to play constructive football.
Copany had the advantage of the wind in the opening half and although they created a few chances, it was not until close to the interval that they got their noses in front.
David Graham was the goalscorer and manager Stephen Johnston admitted afterwards that the goal was the most vital part of the game.
“We needed to be a goal ahead after playing with that strong wind,” said Johnston.
The second half saw Raphoe camped for most of the 45 minutes in the Copany half, but some great defending by captain Thomas Given and Callum Gallagher in midfield saw the visitors get very few chances.
They went close in the first ten minutes when a corner was curled on the wind and the crossbar came to Rovers’ rescue.
Paddy Gallagher had a half-chance but his effort went well over and the Raphoe boys had calls for a penalty turned away with ten minutes left.
As the game wore on, tensions began to rise and Liam Farren needed to flash yellow on a few occasions to keep the game in check. With such a large crowd, there was plenty of vocal support for the official as well as a crowded sideline.
Four minutes from time Tom McHugh headed just off target, but a minute later Raphoe were back on terms when a corner by Stephen Laird went all the way to the net - a very well struck shot which went to the net just on the angle of crossbar and post.
Raphoe pressed for the winner they needed and it almost came with the last attack of the game, Thomas Given denying Mark Bogle with a last ditch block, which allowed Copany to hold out and the final whistle saw them celebrate in style.
“We never do things the easy way in Copany,” was the manager, Stephen Johnston’s first reaction after the final whistle. “It was a great effort by all the boys all year.”
“It was a very difficult day for playing football. It was a game of two halves. We had the better of it in the first half, but in the secone half with the breeze, Raphoe showed why they are the form team at the moment. They haven’t been beaten since we beat them, was back in October,” said Johnston.
“The goal we got before the break was vital. We said that at half-time. We knew we would have to fight tooth and nail to keep that lead as long as we can. We knew the pressure was going to come on because Raphoe needed the win.
“Our defence played well, but then you make your own luck and I think throughout the season things balance out. We deserved the wee bit of luck (when the corner came off the crossbar), to be honest,” said Stephen.
“It’s been a great season. Everything has come together since we celebrated last year with Finn Harps here. It’s been 23 years since we last won a title and it’s a great achievement for a small club,” said Stephen.
Copany Rovers: Stephen Doherty, Nick Maskery, Darren Kilpatrick, Cian Gallagher, Thomas Given, Daragh Brogan, Callum Gallagher, Glen Harron, Dale Duncan (Marty McGrath 81), Pauric Rooney (Paul Clarke 87), David Graham.
Raphoe Town: Paul Carbery, Christy Bogle, Seamus Bogle (Stephen Laird 80), Tom McHugh, Stephen Conaghan, David Craig, Gavin McBrearty (Lee Smith 65), Emmett Kelly, Jamie Gallagher, Paddy Gallagher, Stephen Craig (Mark Bogle 69).
Referee: Liam Farren