Opening day wins for Cockhill and Letterkenny Rovers in USL


Opening day wins for Cockhill and Letterkenny Rovers in USL

The first series of league games in the new Ulster Senior League season took place yesterday.

Reigning champions Cockhill Celtic secured a narrow 1-0 win over Fanad United to ensure a winning start.

Letterkenny Rovers also got off to a good start with a 2-1 win over Derry City Reserves while Bonagee United and Swilly Rovers drew 1-1.

On Thursday, the USL confirmed that Finn Harps Reserves have rejoined the league.

A new set of fixtures for the new season will be confirmed this week.

Letterkenny Rovers 2

Derry City Reserves 1

Letterkenny Rovers and Derry City Reserves portrayed the value of intermediate football in the county when playing out an entertaining game at Leckview Park. It was the home side who deservedly claimed the three points after an enthralling 2-1 win.

City manager Kenny Shiels has extolled the virtues of the league since taking over at Brandywell and he once again brought a strong side which featured a number of first team squad members. They were quick out of the blocks, dominating possession in the opening ten minutes but created little with the extremely lively Joshua Daniels coming closest on 11 minutes.

Rovers began to get a foothold on proceedings and were excellent for the remainder of the first half and took the lead with their first real chance on 13 minutes.

Ryan Gildea pounced on a loose ball out of defence from Christian Castelis and he found Paul McVeigh who in turn saw his cross only half cleared where it fell to Steve Okakpo-Emeka and he made no mistake when blasting home.

Cathal Farren then could have equalised but forced keeper Rory Kelly into a routine save on 20 minutes before McVeigh then teed up his brother Brian who just fired wide. Former Candystripe Conor Tourish did well to block Farren when he looked set to score on 27 minutes.

Derry did have two chances to level at the beginning of the second period when Farren and Harry Monaghan both headed narrowly over.

The excellent Paul McVeigh - who was playing his first game of the season after some trials at Alloa Athletic - should have doubled the lead on 53 minutes when latching onto a long clearance from returning goalkeeper Rory Kelly.

Rovers were not to be denied a well merited second on 63 minutes when top marksman Darren McElwaine latched onto a superb pass from Brian McVeigh to beat the offside trap and his low effort beat Shaun Patton with the aid of a slight deflection.

Letterkenny notoriously never make anything easy for themselves though and allowed City back into the game on 72 minutes when Farren made no mistake with his header this time from a sublime Joshua Daniels cross to make it 2-1

Paul McVeigh forced Shaun Patton into a wonderful double save on 88 minutes while Derry could have got an equaliser before that as sub Connor Gormley's shot came off the head of fellow sub Stephen Duffy and it could have went anywere but Rovers were relieved to see it go just over the bar.

Letterkenny Rovers: Rory Kelly, David Shovlin, Chris Flanagan, Ryan Gildea, Conor Tourish, Kevin McGrath, Paul McVeigh, Chrity Connaghan, Darren McElwaine, Brian McVeigh, Steve Okakpo-Emeka (Mark Forker 80).

Derry City Reserves: Shaun Patton, Adrian Delap (Stephen Duffy 69), Scott Whiteside, Christian Castelis, Jack Blake, Harry Monaghan, Rory Holden (Ronan Wilson 69), Dean Brown,Keith Ward (Connor Gormley 69), Cathal Farren, Joshua Daniels.

Referee: Vincent McLoughlin.

Cockhill Celtic 1

Fanad United 0

League champions Cockhill got their title defence off to a winning start with a narrow win over a committed Fanad team in windy conditions in Cockhill on Sunday afternoon.

Cockhill started brightly with a Garbhan Friel shot which went narrowly wide on 4mins. While Cockhill were on top, Fanad were dangerous on the break.

On 19mins Cockhill went close when a Ronan Doherty corner was headed back across goal by William O'Connor.

When Mark Moran challenged Fanad keeper Shane Graham the loose ball was hacked off the line.

Fanad replied with a Marty McAteer free kick being tipped over by Gavin Cullen. Cockhill suffered a setback on 31 minutes when Friel picked up an injury and had to be replaced.

The second half started with Cockhill again on top possession wise but Fanad looking dangerous. In fact, Fanad should have taken the lead on 51mins when Davitt Walsh's cross was half cleared to Caolan McElwaine whose shot was brilliantly saved by Gavin Cullen.

This was the catalyst for Cockhill's best passage of the game. Firstly, Gerry Gill and James Bradley went close before Mark Moran struck for the winning goal on 61 minutes, cutting inside and firing low past Graham from the edge of the box.

Fanad had a chance to equalise on 76 minutes when Daire McDaid found space in the Cockhill box but his shot found the side netting much to the relief of the home side.

Bonagee United 1

Swilly Rovers 1

New Swilly Rovers manager, Gerry Crossan brought his team to Dry Arch Park for his first game in charge, and he would have travelled back to Lennonside the happier of the two managers.

Swilly got off to a great start when they took the lead in the 2nd minute when a loose pass across the penalty area by Francisco Crisco was intercepted by Ricky Fisher who laid it off to Laurence Toland to score from fifteen yards out.

Bonagee began to come into the game and Caolan Bolton was certainly the busier of the two keepers. Firstly he smothered an effort form Kennedy Bonachie in the 21st minute and then on the half hour mark, he did well to hold a rasper of a shot from Aidan McLaughlin.

Bonagee played the second half with the wind behind them, and they peppered the Swilly goal with a host of chances. The visitors' job was made all the more difficult when Marty McDaid saw red for a tussle with Crisco. Larkin, Bonachie, Crisco and McLaughlin all had good chances to draw level, but luck was not on their side.

Swilly could have gone further ahead in the 83rd minute when Darek Frankowski bundled Mikey Sweeney over in the area, but the referee deemed it a fair challenge and waved play on much to the annoyance of the visiting support.

But just when Bonagee thought it was not going to be their day, an effort from Chris Moran struck an opposing defender and into the path of Aidan McLaughlin, who sidefooted home from ten yards to tie the contest.

Bonagee United: Wade, Russell, Lynagh, Frankowski, McCroary, Larkin, McCauley, Moran, Crisco, Boachie, McLaughlin.

Swilly Rovers: Bolton, Hegarty, Patterson, Durning, Crossan, Wilkie, McDaid, Mooney, R McDaid, Fisher, Toland.