Fanad United earned their first point of the Ulster Senior League season against Letterkenny Rovers at Triaghalough on Saturday.
Fanad United 1
Letterkenny Rovers 1
Ollie Horgan’s team are currently at a transitional stage in their existence with a flood of young players now on their books.
Those youngsters have had the proverbial baptism of fire with four defeats from four and might’ve had something from the visit of Trevor Scanlon’s side had it not been for a debatable second half penalty.
The hosts were 1-0 up on 65 minutes when Declan Sweeney was adjudged to have fouled Oisin McMenamin in the penalty area.
The Fanad centre-back certainly appeared to play the ball, although in retrospect might’ve wished he stayed on his feet as the Rovers frontman wasn’t facing goal.
Either way, Con McLaughlin pointed to the spot and Darren McElwaine stroked the penalty into the bottom corner for an equalising goal.
Fanad had taken the initiative eight minutes before the break when Shane Buchanan seized on Kieran Gorman’s undercooked backpass and rounded Jason Quinn to open the scoring.
The away side, with five points from their first four encounters this term, are also going through the winds of change. Their equaliser was probably merited but in the end a draw was a fair reflection of the match.
Rovers were forced into an early alteration when centre-back Ruairí Kelly hobbled off on 17 minutes and was replaced by Dan O’Donnell.
Little or nothing noteworthy happened in the first half hour before Mark Neeson, who has signed for Rovers having won the Donegal League Premier Division from his native Lifford Celtic, smacked the crossbar from outside of the penalty area.
The rebound was about the fall to McElwaine, only for Kevin Murray to make a goal-saving last ditch tackle and keep the score at 0-0.
Neeson unpicked the Fanad defence six minutes later to set McMenamin away down the left and his cross was headed inches wide of the target by the incoming Kevin Doran.
With Rovers in the ascendency it looked as thought the opening goal was certainly on its way. And so it was, only it was Fanad who would score it.
On 37 minutes, Jonathan Minnock and Gorman went for the same ball but the latter too charge and immediately looked for his goalkeeper.
However, with Buchanan sniffing, Gorman’s back pass wasn’t strong enough. The Fanad forward showed composure as he nipped onto the loose ball to round Quinn and slot into the empty net.
For a club with 14 Ulster Senior League titles, the most recent of those just two seasons ago, Fanad are not familiar with basement struggles.
That’s the way it is this term, though, so Buchanan’s goal gave them a boost.
Rovers almost managed to restore parity on the stoke of half-time when Gorman brushed the side-netting with a header after Minnock’s free-kick delivery.
The visitors continued to press after the break but it was Fanad who came closest to adding to the scoreline.
From an enterprising break, Buchanan got the better of Minnock on the right and his centre was taken first time by Brian McVeigh, only to see the volley sail just over the angle of Quinn’s post and crossbar.
Minnock then, like Gorman in the first half, was culpable of a short backpass but this time Buchanan was stretching as Quinn narrowed the angle and the effort trickled wide.
Rovers levelled through McElwaine’s penalty after Neeson’s pass dissected the defence before McMenamin was fouled.
McElwaine’s penalty was smoothly rolled into the bottom corner as Sean Daffon in the Fanad goal maintained his stance in the centre.
Neeson seemed the one player capable of plotting a way through the Fanad defence and with fine use of possession and comfort on the ball, certainly gave an assured debut.
There was little between the teams in the closing stages as Letterkenny were the more adventurous of the competitors.
Fanad were willing to sit in a bid to claim their first point of the season but from an enterprising break, McVeigh, after being found in space by Oisin Basset, could only shoot straight at Quinn.
Neither side really did enough to win the match and it will be Fanad who will be slightly the happier with the point.
Fanad United: Sean Daffon; Jordan McBride, Kevin Murray, Declan Sweeney, Oisin Shiels; Keane Ryan, Oisin Basset, Patrick McGrenaghan, Conor Mathewson; Brian McVeigh, Shane Buchanan . Subs: Glenn McNulty for Ryan (74), Kyle Burke for Mathewson (80), Padraic Ferry for Basset (90).
Letterkenny Rovers: Jason Quinn; Anthony Doherty, Kieran Gorman, Ruairí Kelly, Jonathan Minnock; Kevin Doran, Mark Neeson, Chris Malseed, Aaron Scanlon; Darren McElwaine, Oisin McMenamin. Subs: Dan O’Donnell for Kelly (17), Glen Gallagher for Doherty (58), Matthew O’Rourke for Doran (79).
Referee: Con McLaughlin.