MARK HUNTER was on the double as Lagan Harps scooped the Temple Domestic Appliances Division 1 in a dramatic final day of action.
Kerrykeel 71 Club 0 FC Lagan Harps 2
Hunter’s second-half brace saw Keith Hegarty’s team defeat Kerrykeel 71 Club at Rabs Park for the win they needed to stave off the threats of Donegal Town and Convoy Arsenal.
It wasn’t completely plain sailing for the Orchard Park, but Hunter’s 24th and 25th goals of a magnificent campaign takes Lagan back into the top flight as First Division champions.
Just 40 seconds into the second half, Kevin Kelly was taken down by Matthew Stewart and Hunter stepped up to fire the penalty beyond Shane Sandilands, the Kerrykeel goalkeeper.
Twenty minutes from time, Hunter doubled the lead. Kerrykeel appealed strongly for an offside against Hunter, who got on the end of a Chris Toner through ball, but referee Ed Moore allowed play continue.
Hunter had the time, the wherewithal and the composure to take a touch before slotting into the bottom corner.
Lagan opened well, but couldn’t force a breakthrough with Hunter firing over and Marty Brogan shooting wide from distance.
Doran flicked a header over the crossbar and Brogan tamely shot into Sandilands’ hands from a promising position just inside the Kerrykeel box.
The longer the game went on, the more Lagan frustrated themselves and their anxious followers along the sideline.
They had a glorious opening, fashioned by Toner, in the 23rd minute. Toner weaved his way past Niall Doherty and Tony McBride on the left-hand side. Toner unselfishly opted not to have a go, instead laying off to Doran, whose attempt was cleared by Stewart.
Toner broke away again five minutes later. After racing clear to latch onto a long ball by Drew Connolly, Toner saw his shot turned onto the crossbar by Sandilands.
Late in the half, Sandilands saved well from Travis Crawford’s well-placed header and Ronan Sweeney just failed to get a touch when he flung himself at Kevin Kelly’s teasing cross.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic and Kerrykeel came close to stunning Lagan when Andrew Friel got a dangerous touch on a Paul Gibbons free, but ‘keeper Jason Quinn clawed away at the vital moment.
Kerrykeel 71 Club
Lagan were rocked back on their heels at the beginning of March with a 3-1 defeat to fellow title-chasers Convoy Arsenal, but hit back to score 15 goals in their next three games: a 3-1 win over Kerrykeel, an 8-0 hammering of Cranford and a 4-0 success against Bonagee United.
Last week’s scoreless draw at Keadue kept them on tenterhooks heading into a helicopter Sunday in Division 1 with Convoy Arsenal and Donegal Town also having aspirations of landing silverware this afternoon.
At half-time, it was delicately poised but, when Hunter netted in the opening minute of the second half, the Lagan nerves were eased considerably.
In between his goals, Hunter went close, but drove wide of the far post after getting away from Michael McDevitt.
Toner had a chance of a third, but lobbed narrowly over the top after beating the offside trap.
Kerrykeel, to their eternal credit, made a real fight of this. Hughie Walsh’s side might already have had their own fate sealed, with the 71 Club relegated to Division 2, but they didn’t lay down here, but they were undone by Hunter’s pair of goals that corked the champagne for Lagan.
Kerrykeel 71 Club: Shane Sandilands; Tony McBride, Conor McFadden, Michael McDevitt, Matthew Stewart (James Martin 84); Niall Doherty, Andrew Friel, Myles McBride, Paul Gibbons (Bernard Martin 82); Brian McBride, Ciarán McLaughlin (Shaun McGettigan 82).
Lagan Harps: Jason Quinn; Travis Crawford, Seamus Peoples, Ronan Sweeney, Drew Connolly (Ciaran Diver 86); Kevin Kelly, Marty Brogan, Glenn Gallagher, Chris Toner; Mark Hunter (Michael Devlin 90), Darren Doran (Philip Doran 81).
Referee: Ed Moore.Tags: