Cockhill Celtic have the 4 Lanterns Ulster Senior League title within reach and head for Swilly Park on Sunday, the final day of the league season, knowing that a point will secure them the prize.
Cockhill won the Donegal News Ulster Senior League Cup on Sunday and this weekend can secure an unprecedented fifth league and League Cup double in a row.
Letterkenny Rovers have taken advantage of Cockhill’s uncharacteristically shaky form since Christmas to narrow the gap, but Cockhill remain the power brokers heading into the final games on Sunday, with the best Rovers can hope for a play-off at this stage.
Rovers head to Triagh-A-Locha, Fanad, with a win their sole option. Even then, Eamonn McConigley’s men would need Swilly to beat Cockhill for a play-off to happen.
“It’s a tough place to go,” Cockhill player-manager Gavin Cullen warned.
“We still have to set ourselves up right and nothing is a given. We just have to prepare properly and go get the job done.”
In January, Swilly ended a remarkable unbeaten sequence for Cockhill when a 3-2 win at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds brought Cockhill to their knees for the first time in league football since 2012.
Cockhill profited from a defeat to Derry City in late January as the League Executive deemed that Derry had fielded an ineligible team and awarded Cockhill a 3-0 win that is now proving decisive.
It has been a long haul for Cockhill in their quest for dominance. Only once before – by Fanad United in the mid-90s – has a team won five titles in successive seasons and Cockhill could enter that same territory on Sunday.
Cullen said: “It’ll be a seriously tough game. We know what’s ahead of us, but we need the same level of performance as we got in the Cup final.
“ We wanted to be involved in the latter stages and we are. The team is tired and jaded, but they showed in the final that they have the attitude and desire to dig deep when it’s needed.
“We had a big test against Bonagee, who really put it up to us. No-one will hand us this league. Bonagee really tested us and it went to the wire that night.”
Jimmy Bradley, the Cockhill captain, netted the winner against Bonagee at Dry Arch Park and the skipper was also the match winner in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Derry in the League Cup final.
Bradley is Cockhill’s top scorer this season, having netted seven league goals so far, and with several key players absent has become a real leading light.
Cullen said: “Jimmy is, in my opinion, one of the best players ever to play in this League. He is so under-rated.
“He is so important to this team. He really drives things on and he takes games by the scruff of the neck.
“He’s a player who can win you games and there aren’t many who’ll get the better of him.”
Tuesday, May 2nd
Finn Harps Reserves 2-3 Derry City Reserves
Sunday, May 7th, 2pm
Swilly Rovers v Cockhill Celtic
Fanad United v Letterkenny Rovers