Cockhill Celtic have the 4 Lanterns Ulster Senior League title within reach now 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 head into the final Sunday, with the best Rovers can hope for a play-off at this stage.
Rovers head to Triagh-A-Locha with a win their sole option. Even then, Eamon 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.”
The under-stated Bradley got his hands on one piece of silverware on Sunday and will hope to get the paws around the League trophy in Ramelton.
“We have trained hard all year and we really want it,” Bradley said.
“We’ll take anything we get now as long as we get over the line. Every man put a shift in against Derry and we kept the ball really well.
“We had a few bad matches, but we’ve turned it around. Experience was a big thing in the final against Derry and we used the heads well. We’ll need the same again in Swilly.”
Finn Harps Reserves 2 Derry City Reserves 3
A first-half brace by Stephen Duffy helped to fire Derry City Reserves to victory over Finn Harps Reserves at The Curragh on Tuesday evening.
Duffy, a younger brother of former Celtic youth and now Dundalk player Michael Duffy, scored twice and Matty Duffy also netted as Derry raced into a 3-0 lead.
Liam Walsh grabbed a goal back for Harps, while Luke Nelis gave Joe Boyle’s team hope in the second half.
Derry were indebted to goalkeeper Jason McCallion, who denied Ryan Finn from a penalty.
4 Lanterns Ulster Senior League
Tuesday, May 2
Finn Harps Reserves 2-3 Derry City Reserves
Sunday, May 7, 2pm
Swilly Rovers v Cockhill Celtic
Fanad United v Letterkenny Rovers
|Derry City Reserves||18||9||2||7||37||28||9||29||*|
|Finn Harps Reserves||18||3||2||13||20||41||-21||11||**|
|* Cockhill Celtic awarded a 3-0 win after Derry City Reserves team deemed ineligible on Jan 22|
|** Bonagee United awarded a 3-0 win after Finn Harps Reserves fail to field on April 23|
TOP GOALSCORERS (League only)
Darren McElwaine (Letterkenny Rovers) 11
Cathal Farren (Derry City Reserves) 9
Aidan McLaughlin (Bonagee United) 8
Jimmy Bradley (Cockhill Celtic) 7
Mark Moran (Cockhill Celtic) 6
Laurence Toland (Swilly Rovers) 5
Gerard McLaughlin (Cockhill Celtic) 5
Keelin McElwaine (Fanad United) 5
Stephen Duffy (Derry City Reserves) 5