THE ULSTER SENIOR LEAGUE’S league season kicked off with champions Cockhill Celtic recording an impressive away win at Derry City while Letterkenny Rovers and Swilly Rovers also won.
Letterkenny Rovers 4 Bonagee United 2
A RIP-ROARING encounter at Leckview Park marked the introduction of the new Ulster Senior League season proper as Letterkenny Rovers got the better of near neighbours Bonagee a highly entertaining yet tenacious encounter.
Picture caption: Goalmouth action from Leckview Park. Picture courtesy of Stephen Doherty.
Rovers were quicker out of the blocks and were two ahead within the opening five minutes.
They took the lead on four minutes when visiting netminder Eugene Ferry mis-hit his goalkick, which was intercepted by Paul McVeigh and he played a perfect weighted pass to Stevie Okakpo-Emeka who ran into the box before dispatching a neat shot low into the corner.
Rovers were in dreamland and it got better just a minute later when referee Michael Connolly pointed to the spot after Paddy O’Loan appeared to clip the heels of McVeigh rather needlessly as he was actually exiting the penalty area.
The Bonagee management and players were amazed by the decision particularly as McVeigh did not go to ground but McVeigh never thought twice and dispatched the penalty himself with ease.
With such a good start the home side appeared to switchoff probably believing the job was done but Bonagee had other ideas and dominated long periods of the remainder of the half and came right back into it on 19 minutes.
After some sloppy play in the Rovers midfield Chris Moran’s through ball found Anthony Appiah and his shot beat Sean Friel in the Rovers goal. Bonagee could have had a penalty themselves similar to the one at the other end when Declan Lynch’s heels were clipped by Okakpo-Emeka but this time referee Connolly waved away the loud penalty appeals.
The visitors were rampant for a stage and Sean Friel needed to be at his best to pull off a super save from Appiah on 36 minutes spreading himself well as Appiah should have really scored.
Bonagee were not to be denied and deservedly drew level just a minute later when Paul Simon Traceys free kick found the Pole Darek Frankowski and he had plenty of space and finished clinically from six yards.
Rovers were rocking at this stage having surrendered a two-goal lead but to be fair they battled back well and retook the lead on 41 minutes.
Jonny Bonner – on his return from Wexford Youths – played a super ball over the top from his left back position and in stepped Okakpo-Emeka who beat the offside trap with ease before rounding Eugene Ferry to fire home.
Okakpo-Emeka then had two super chances to extend the lead on 43 and 45 minutes but spurned them both while Mark Forker and Kevin McGrath also had chances in a fiery five-minute spell by the hosts who were stung after being rocked by Bonagee’s equaliser.
The second half started off in the same helter skelter vein and Bonagee had yet more loud claims for a penalty when Deano Larkin appeared to be fouled by Conal McGonigle but again appeals fell on deaf ears much to the chagrin of Peter Moran in the Bonagee dugout.
Things settled down with Rovers getting a grip in midfield and with Mark Forker demonstrating all his senior experience and very much to the fore Rovers had a couple of chances before scoring what turned out to be the insurance goal on 63 minutes. Some neat flowing football led to Jonny Bonner rampaging down the left wing and his perfectly weighted teasing cross laid it on the proverbial plate for Paul McVeigh and he simply could not miss with his header. From then on in Rovers were well organised and disciplined and worked extremely hard and were in no mood to give up another two goal lead and limited Bonagee to a number of long range efforts with the lively Appiah again coming closest.
Good start for the League from Rovers under caretaker boss Liam O’Donnell who was deputising for Eamon McConigley who is abroad, while Bonagee boss Peter Moran will take heart from how his side responded after being shell-shocked with Rovers quick start and knows his side will need to bounce back at home to Fanad when the league resumes in a fortnights time to get his troops challenge for a League title right back on track. Letterkenny are away to Derry in their next outing.
Letterkenny Rovers: Sean Friel, Ryan Lonergan, Jonny Bonner, Conal McGonigle, Johnathan Minnock, Stevie Okakpo-Emeka, Cathal McDaid, Kevin McGrath, Paul McVeigh, Mark Forker, Terence Shields. Subs: Tommy Bonner for Shields (68), Darren McElwaine for McGrath (82).
Bonagee United; Eugene Ferry, Gareth Breslin, Paddy O’Loan, Daren Hunter, Declan Lynch, Chris Moran, Darek Frankowski, Dean Larkin, Aidan McLaughlin, Anthony Appiah, Paul Simon Tracey. Subs; Aodhan Cannon for O’Loan (71), James Carolan for Tracey (73).
Referee; Michael Connolly.
Fanad United 0 Swilly Rovers 4
SWILLY Rovers opened their league campaign with a comfortable 4-0 victory over a depleted Fanad United in a match that was played in ideal conditions at Traigh-a-Locha.
Fanad went into the game missing several players due to GAA commitments and Jason Gibson’s Swilly Rovers team took full advantage by playing some excellent football at times with Laurence Toland and Adam Sahli both scoring twice.
The first chance of the game fell to veteran striker Michael McHugh in the tenth minute when he headed over from Toland’s inswinging free kick.
Toland was then unlucky in the 14th minute when his well struck free kick from 20 yards went just wide of the post.
Fanad started to come into the game a bit more and it required an excellent tackle from Shay Durning to deny Patrick Carr after he was set up by player-manager Arthur Lynch. In the 23rd minute Oran Shiels produced an excellent cross from the right but the ball was missed by Michael Canning at the back post.
Fanad’s best chance of the half fell to Arthur Lynch who following a brilliant run and set up by Keelin McElwaine, prodded his shot just wide with Wade stranded.
Swilly certainly made Fanad pay for the missed chances by scoring three goals in the last 13 minutes of the half. The first goal came in the 32nd minute when James McCahill’s through ball split the Fanad defence and Laurence Toland ran through and placed his shot beyond the dive of Gallagher.
Swilly doubled their lead in the 39th minute when following a poor clearance from Gallagher, Laurence Toland seized on the ball and chipped Gallagher from 20 yards. Swilly then effectively wrapped up the game two minutes before the break when Marty McDaid’s deep cross was met by the unmarked Adam Sahli who made no mistake with his header.
The second half started at a slower pace with chances few and far between. Seven minutes in though Swilly missed a gilt edged chance to extend their lead when Dylan Hegarty’s his powerful header crash off the cross bar from a Toland corner.
Hegarty wasted another opportunity to get on the score sheet in the 65th minute when he sent his header wide following Michael McHugh’s flick on from a Sahli corner.
Swilly finally added a fourth goal in the 72nd minute and veteran striker McHugh was at the heart of the move.
Receiving the ball with his back to goal, McHugh produced a superb piece of skill to turn his marker and his inch perfect cross was met by Adam Sahli who scored at the back post.
Best for Fanad were Oran Shiels, Patrick Carr and Keelin McElwaine. Best for Swilly were Laurence Toland, Adam Salhi and Michael McHugh.
Fanad United: Shaun Gallagher, Kevin Murray, Darren Lynch, Chris Duffy, James Gallagher, Declan McGarvey, Oran Shiels, Arthur Lynch, Patrick Carr, Michael Canning, Keelin McElwaine. Subs: Kevin McGonigle for Murray (62), Oran Blaney for Lynch (72).
Swilly Rovers: Gareth Wade, Dylan Hegarty, Shaun Crossan, Ryan McDaid, Shay Durning, Daniel O’Donnell, Michael McHugh, James McCahill, Martin McDaid, Laurence Toland, Adam Sahli. Subs: Caolan Murray for Crossan (80), Cathal Diver for McHugh (82).
Referee: Packie Coll.
Derry City Reserves 0 Cockhill Celtic 4
CHAMPIONS Cockhill Celtic began the defence of their 4 Lanterns Ulster Senior League crown with an emphatic 4-0 win over a fancied Derry City Reserves side at Swilly Stadium in Templemore.
Goals from Brendan McLaughlin (2), Malachy McDermott and Derek Doherty gave Gavin Cullen’s side the perfect start in the league to life after Donal O’Brien. Both clubs are third represented in the USL squad that will seek to retain the Michael Ward Trophy for a 3rd consecutive year when they visit Dublin next weekend so a much closer game was anticipated.