Laurence Toland recreated his title-clinching moment of glory from last season with the only goal of the game as Cockhill edged out Bonagee United at Dry Arch Park.
Bonagee United 0 Cockhill Celtic 1
By Chris McNulty at Dry Arch Park
In June, Toland netted a memorable goal as Cockhill retained their Four Lanterns USL title with a play-off win over Letterkenny Rovers and he was back at the same venue to strike the winner as Cockhill returned to winning ways with a hard-earned win over Bonagee.
Toland pounced seven minutes into the second half. A free kick from the right was won by Irish amateur international Peter Doherty, Bonagee defender Tommy McMonagle momentarily lost his footing and Toland struck gold.
The Ramelton man’s finish was superb and it needed a touch of class to beat Shaun Patton. It felt from a long way out as if one goal would win the day – and so it proved.
Toland has only just returned from injury and lasted 83 minutes on on a match-winning day to secure three points that may well prove priceless as Cockhill continue a quest for a seventh USL crown in a row.
It was perhaps a measure of how far Bonagee have come in the early days of Jason Gibon’s tenure at Dry Arch Park that they left here cursing their luck.
Towards the end of last season, Bonagee even failed to field in an away game at Cockhill, but they pushed the champions every step of the way here.
Twice in the first half, Bonagee were denied by last-ditch blocks.
First, Darren McFadden beat Cockhill ‘keeper Lee McCarron, but Oisin McColgan was on hand to prevent the opener.
Bonagee went closer still in the 36th minute. McFadden, again, was on the end of an excellent Bonagee move, started by Michael Funston’s sweeping pass to Jamie Lynagh, whose pull-back was fired into the danger zone by Garbhan Grant.
McFadden’s lobbed effort looked set to break the stalemate, but Gerard McLaughlin was in the right place at the right time. Cockhill were certainly thankful for a man of his stature on the goal-line as he nodded away.
McFadden earlier had been thwarted by Jason Breslin while McCarron was equal to another attempt from the Derryman.
Patton had to be at his alert best to deny Toland in the 21st minute, the Bonagee net-minder doing well to hold on at his near post.
Bonagee kept faith with the same XI that had beaten Swilly 8-1 in the Intermediate Cup last week, while Cockhill were without Gerry Gill and Marty Doherty, who served a suspension following their red cards in their Intermediate defeat by Letterkenny Rovers.
A 5-0 loss at Leckview Park was a nadir for the modern day Cockhill, but their response were was telling and it was a case of ‘back to basics’, as Gavin Cullen alluded to afterwards.
They had to be ion their toes here as a much-improved Bonagee asked the questions and McCarron got down superbly to turn away from the ever-dangerous McFadden. Moments later, the stretching McFadden just failed to connect to Funston’s teasing cross.
When Toland broke the deadlock, Cockhill held sway and they were able to use every inch of their experience and big game know-how to see out the remainder and keep Bonagee at bay.
Bonagee United: Shaun Patton, Sean Hume, Mark Harkin, Tommy McMonagle, Jamie Lynagh, Ryan Rainey, Jordan Armstrong, Michael Funston, Micheál Doherty, Garbhan Grant, Darren McFadden. Subs: Gareth Breslin for Armstong (70), Aaron Wassen for Hume (85).
Cockhill Celtic: Lee McCarron, Paul McDermott, Peter Doherty, Oisin McColgan, Jason Breslin, Jimmy Bradley Gerard McLaughlin, Malachy McDermott, Benny McLaughlin, Laurence Toland, Mark Moran. Subs: Bart Wesolowski for Moran (81), Conor McNamee for Toland (83), Ethan Canning for B.McLaughlin (88).
Referee: Marty Quinn.Tags: