BJ Banda hit a memorable brace at Finn Park’s Town End as Letterkenny Rovers won the Donegal News Ulster Senior League Cup.
Letterkenny Rovers 3 Cockhill Celtic 1
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park
Banda’s scored twice in the closing stages to fired Eamonn McConigley’s men (pictured by Joe Boland, North West News Pix) to the win.
On 82 minutes, Banda riffled into the same net where he netted a famous promotion-winner for Finn Harps in the 2015 play-off against Limerick.
Banda wasn’t far off that same spot and he wheeled off in celebration as he ended Cockhill’s quest for a seventh League and League Cup double.
In added time, Banda slammed home after Lee Toland’s free was beaten away by Cockhill goalkeeper Stephen Conroy.
For long spells it looked as if Toland’s first-half penalty was going to prove the difference, but Cockhill drew level with 19 minutes remaining.
Gerry Gill’s corner was hooked onto the bar by Bart Wesolowksi and, in a crowded area, captain Jimmy Bradley applied the final touch to get Cockhill back on an even keel again.
Eight minutes from time, however, Banda pounced to put Rovers in the driving seat, the former Harps man steering home at the near post after getting on the end of Ryan Lonergan’s sweeping cross.
Cockhill almost struck another equaliser but, after Wesowlowski hit a post, Mark Moran blasted wide with the follow-up and Banda’s second put it well beyond Cockhill’s reach.
The Inishowen men ended with ten men as Gerry Gill was given a second booking in the 94th minute.
Rovers took the lead when Toland finished high from a penalty after Conroy took down BJ Banda as he scurried into the area. Banda had slipped just past Conroy, when he was fouled.
Ref’ Marty McGarrigle pointed to the spot and Toland was the picture of cool as he fired home from 12 yards.
Cockhill were inches from an equaliser in the 38th minute as Gerry Gill cracked a free kick off the inside of Rory Kelly’s post after good work by Benny Fildara drew a foul from Toland on the edge of the box.
Rovers had an even bigger let-off three minutes before the break as Kelly’s fingertips wonderfully turned a Gill penalty onto the bar after the Rover netminder was deemed to have fouled Mark Moran.
These teams have built up an intense rivalry of late with Cockhill having had the upper hand in the League Cup final and a League play-off to earn the double haul of honours last season.
Laurence Toland had been the Cockhill hero on the big stage last season, but a rib injury, sustained last weekend, prevented the Ramelton man from lining out here. Daniel Marty Doherty moved to live in Australia during the week and Lee McColgan is in Australia on holiday, meaning they were also on the absent list.
Last weekend, a 2-0 win over Finn Harps Reserves secured Cockhill’s seventh successive Ulster Senior League title – an unprecedented record.
Gavin Cullen’s men entered this one buoyed by a fine run since Christmas to overhaul Letterkenny’s excellent start to the campaign, during which they won all of their opening eight League games.
Rovers, though, lost their way somewhat after the festive period and this provided their only chance of a trophy from what had started as a promising campaign.
Rovers began with a pep in their steps and it took a timely intervention by Kieran McLaughlin to dispossess Banda as he glided into the Cockhill penalty area.
Soon after, a dangerous Toland cross from the left flashed across goal, Cockhill survived and the warning shot had been delivered.
Banda got in behind from a quickly-taken Jonny Bonner free, but Stephen Conroy was able to avert the danger.
It was a rather tame opening, however, with Kelly, the Rovers ‘keeper, comfortably holding to a Jason Breslin header after he connected with a Gill cross, while Kelly gathered a Fildara free-kick.
Letterkenny Rovers: Rory Kelly; Ryan Lonergan, Ryan McConnell, Conor Tourish (Christy Connaghan 65), Lee Toland; Jonny Bonner (Declan Sharkey 93), Brian McVeigh, Chris Malseed, Kevin McGrath (Luke Nelis 95); BJ Banda, Darren McElwaine (Pajo Rafferty 74).
Cockhill Celtic: Stephen Conroy; Kieran McLaughlin, Oisin McColgan, Peter Doherty, Jason Breslin (Adam McCarron 50); Gerry Gill, Gerard McLaughlin, Jimmy Bradley, Mark Moran, Bart Wesolowski, Benny Fildara.
Referee: Marty McGarrigle.Tags: