Conor Tourish in action for the Ulster Senior League against Connacht FA on Saturday. Picture: Stephen Doherty
Cockhill Celtic’s Gerard McLaughlin came off the bench to score the winner at Maginn Park on Saturday to maintain the Ulster Senior League’s faint hopes of winning this year’s FAI Interleague tournament.
Ulster Senior League . . . 1
Connacht FA . . . 0
Anthony Gorman’s team, beaten in their opening game on Friday night by Munster, needed nothing less than a win on Saturday.
But they found the going tough against a very well organised Connacht side and they had McLaughlin to thank for the winner, the substitute’s late strike deflecting off a defender and looping over the keeper and into the net.
The Ulster Senior League probably just about deserved this victory. They played well in the second half and created several good chances before they struck for the winner.
A triple substitution just before the hour which saw the introduction of McLaughlin and his Cockhill team-mates, Jason Bradley and Mark Moran was the spark that the home side needed and Connacht, despite playing well themselves, eventually caved under some late home pressure.
The result means the tournament hosts move onto three points from two games. However, a late winner for Munster in their 3-2 victory over the Leinster Senior League means Munster are now firm favourites to win the competition as they have six points going into their final game against Connacht at Leckview Park on Sunday morning.
Anthony Gorman, whose younger brother Gareth was in charge in the opposite dug-out, made no less than seven changes to his team for Saturday’s game.
The USL were at times, very sluggish in the first half and Connacht had the two best chances in the early stages with Darren Browne and then Ryan McManus seeing efforts saved by Gavin Cullen.
The USL did have a chance just before the break when a fine run and shot from the hard working Jordan Armstrong went just past the post. But for all their possession, the USL failed to sparkle in that first 45 minutes.
On the restart however, they were denied an opener when Brendan McLaughlin’s shot drew a flying save from keeper Gary Cunningham. From the resultant corner, the ball was fed back out to the taker Jonny Bonner and when he worked his way into the box, he drilled a shot towards goal but again Cunningham reacted well to save.
Both teams made changes as the half progressed and both teams seemed to benefit from the introduction of some fresh legs.
Ibra Savage caught the eye for the visitors when he was added to the front-line for the second half while Mark Moran also got on the ball quite a bit as the USL sought the breakthrough.
Bradley should have scored when he saw his effort taken off the line by a defender on 68 minutes. But Connacht eventually conceded, albeit in very unfortunate circumstances when McLaughlin’s strike on 81 minutes spun up off a defender’s attempted block and dropped in over the keeper.
Ulster Senior League: Gavin Cullen, Oisin Langan (Kevin McGrath 78), Peter Doherty, Ryan McConnell (Jimmy Bradley 58), Jason Breslin, Conor Tourish, Chris Flanagan (Michael Funston 78), Jordan Armstrong, BJ Banda (Gerard McLaughlin 58), Benny McLaughlin (Mark Moran 58), Jonny Bonner.
Connacht: Gary Cunningham, Aaron Finnerty (Killian McGlade 67), Paddy Wolfe, Joe Woods, Steve Feeney, Shane O’Rourke (Ross McLaughlin 55), Joe Collins, Dillon Edwards (Jamie Cowley 46), Darren Browne (Ryan Shaughnessy 61), Ryan McManus (Ibra Savage 46), Peter Walsh.
Referee: Packie Coll,
Assistants: Marty McGarrigle, Patrick Martin.
Friday, October 5
Leinster Senior League 2-0 Connacht FA
Ulster Senior League 1-2 Munster Senior League
Saturday, October 6
Connacht FC 0-1 Ulster Senior League
Munster Senior League 3-2 Leinster Senior League
Sunday, October 7, 11am
Leinster Senior League v Ulster Senior League at Dry Arch Park
Munster Senior League v Connacht FC at Leckview Park