Letterkenny Rovers pictured before Sunday's win over Midleton. Photo: Stephen Doherty
Letterkenny Rovers advanced to the last 16 of the FAI Intermediate Cup and also secured a berth in the FAI Cup qualification round as they defeated Munster outfit Midleton 3-2 at the Aura Centre on Sunday.
Letterkenny Rovers . . 3
Midleton . . . 2
It took goals from Pajo Rafferty and Sean McCarron in the final five minutes to ultimately won it for the Cathedral Town side who had to come from behind to defeat a well organised and disciplined Midleton side after an action packed second half.
The first half saw Midleton on the front foot and controlled possession for long periods .
Midleton had loud claims for a penalty for handball waved away but they did go ahead deep into stoppage time in the first half.
James Leahy worked an opening and his ball appeared to strike a hand but play was waved on and Jake Hegarty fired home to send the away side into raptures.
That goal so late would have changed the interval teamtalk and Midleton will bemoan not doubling the advantage straight after the break when Hegarty should have done better but was once again repelled by a super block from Conor Tourish who excelled at the heart of the Rovers defence.
That may have put the game to bed but it was Rovers who crucially got back on level terms on 52 minutes when the lively Rafferty got on the end of an excellent Kevin McGrath throughball and he kept his composure to round O'Donoghue before calmly slotting home.
The game appeared to be winding towards a draw before an explosive final eight minutes and a further eight minutes of injury time rewrote the script several times.
Midleton went in front on 82 minutes when Rovers failed to clear a setpiece and the ball fell to centrehalf Gary Collins who thundered in an effort off the bar.
The Cork men must have been dreaming of avenging their defeat to Rovers at the last 16 stage in 2016 but Rovers dug deep and levelled once more through Rafferty on 85 minutes.
Rafferty showed his pace when running onto a route one clearance from goalkeeper Rory Kelly and he finished neatly to send the home contingent into wild celebration.
Midleton though showed their class and could have gone back in front straight away but Hegarty saw his powerful header from a Kevin Kruschel cross hit the post.
Rovers then stunned their visitors when going 3-2 up in the 89th minute when McCarron fired home after another long throughball from Kelly.
The game was frenetic at this stage and Midelton threw everything forward in the search for an equaliser but it wasnt to be as Rovers with the outstanding Conor Tourish and Ryan Gildea at the heart of defence ensured they survived eight minutes of added time.
LETTERKENNY ROVERS: Rory Kelly, David Shovlin, Lee Toland, Ryan Gldea, Conor Tourish, Chris Flanagan, Kevin McGrath, Chris Malseed, Darren McElwaine, Christy Connaghan, Pajo Rafferty.
Subs; Steve Okakpo-Emeka for Flanagan 64 mins, Sean McCarron for McElwaine 64 mins, Garbhan Grant for Rafferty 90mins.
MIDLETON: Andrew O'Donoghue, James McCarthy, John Keane, Kevin Murray, Gary Collins, Tijani Aibor, James Leahy, Jake Hegarty, Kelvin Kruschel, Andrew Knowles, Ian Maher
Subs; Adam Wilson for Leahy 87 mins.
REFEREE: Michael Connolly.
Cockhill beat Swords Celtic
Cockhill Celtic joined Letterkenny Rovers in the next round of the FAI Intermediate Cup following an impressive win over Swords Celtic on Sunday.
Cockhill Celtic . . . 3
Swords Celtic . . . 1
Cockhill had a golden chance to open the scoring when Mark Coyle was fouled in the box after Swords keeper Trumble spilled a cross.
Trumble quickly redeemed himself saving Friel's penalty.
Swords were dangerous on the break with Owen Jones a great outlet on the right hand side.
Cockhill broke the deadlock on 35 minutes. Coyle released Ronan Doherty on the left. He cut inside and his blocked shot fell to Friel who swept home from 10 yards.
The second half started with Swords having their best period of the game. A Gavin Smith free kick and a Shaun O'Brien shot swere dealt with by Gavin Cullen.
Their best chance came on 65 minutes when the ball broke to Sean Kelly in the box after a Swords free kick. His close range effort forced Cullen into a brilliant reaction save.
Swords were to rue that missed chance as Cockhill put the game beyond them with two goals in the next ten minutes.
Firstly, Laurence Toland doubled the lead on 69 minutes. Coyle found space in the Swords half and when he released Toland the outcome was never in doubt as he drove past Trumble.
It was 3-0 five minutes later when Friel got his second when he outpaced the Swords defence to slot home.
Swords got a consolation goal two minutes from the end when Niall Tormey capitalised on a defensive error to slide the ball past Cullen.
But it's Cockhill who advance to the next round.
The Ulster Senior League will return with three league games next Sunday.
The league action has been on hold since earlier in the month due to last weekend's FAI Interprovincials in Galway, and then Sunday's games in the FAI Intermediate Cup.
However, there will be an important weekend of fixtures next Sunday with leaders Cockhill Celtic at home to Derry City Reserves the top game
Four Lanterns Ulster Senior League
Sunday, December 3, 2pm
Bonagee United v Letterkenny Rovers
Cockhill Celtic v Derry City Reserves
Finn Harps Reserves v Fanad United