WHILE THERE was nothing to separate these two again, Letterkenny Rovers will feel as if this was a case of two dropped points against USL champions Cockhill Celtic.
Letterkenny Rovers 0 Cockhill Celtic 0
By Chris McNulty at Leckview Park
Eamon McConigley’s side had the better of the play and the chances, but could find no way past Gavin Cullen as Cockhill kept another clean sheet – their third in four League outings.
On an afternoon when Rovers were on top, the Cathedral Town men just couldn’t break the deadlock, but it was they who grumbled at the conclusion having had a ‘goal’ chalked off on 70 minutes.
Kevin McGrath had the ball in the Cockhill net 20 minutes from the end, but it proved the game’s decisive moment as it was ruled out.
McGrath surged in to finish from Lee Toland’s searching cross to the far post, but an offside flag from assistant referee Vincent McLoughlin stopped right celebrations in their tracks.
McGrath had appeared, from a vantage point in the stand, to ghost in around the back but the protests were limited at the time from Rovers.
BJ Banda netted a hat-trick last week as Rovers defeated Fanad United 4-1 here and the former Finn Harps striker began in lively fashion.
Banda was a threat throughout and he almost broke the stalemate five minutes before the break. It was Banda who sent Gary Merritt away down the right-hand side.
Merritt floated in a teasing cross and Banda soared through an air that belied the last page of the calendar only to see a diving header clear the crossbar by inches.
Banda, though, will feel as if he should’ve, at the very least, hit the target from that position.
Moments later, Banda wriggled away, but Cullen was out to save at the feet of the Letterkenny frontman.
After the reprieve of the offside ruling for the goal that wasn’t, Cockhill soon fired a warning with Adam McLaughlin getting in only to be denied by home ‘keeper Rory Kelly.
The visitors showed their strength with a triple substitution that brought about the arrivals of Laurence Toland, Adam Duffy and Mark Moran into the action with 15 minutes to go.
Peter Doherty headed into Kelly’s arms as Cockhill began to threaten and Toland warmed the home net-minder’s gloves from a free kick as the evening darkened, but there was to be no breakthrough moment.
Meetings between these two have been typically tense over recent years and this one was no different.
After being sent away by Jonny Bonner’s pass on eight minutes, Banda jinked away from Lee McColgan before drilling a powerful shot into the side-netting.
A minute later, after Oisin McColgan’s wayward back pass evaded Cullen, Bonner’s corner was met by Dan O’Donnell, whose header fell upon the top of the Cockhill crossbar.
Rovers ought to have hit the front on 15 minuets, but Kevin McGrath shot wide from 12 yards as he raced onto a loose ball when Peter Doherty’s challenge halted Banda’s march.
O’Donnell headed inches wide on 24 minutes as he connected with another teasing Bonner corner. O’Donnell’s header dropped just shy the target, but the hosts were playing with the greater purpose.
Cullen saved from Bonner’s low drive soon after and Doherty’s challenge prevented Banda from tucking in the rebound. A fraction either way and referee Garbhan Taggart would’ve been pointing to the spot 12 yards from Cullen’s goal-line with Rovers appealing that Banda had been unfairly impeded.
Rovers welcomed Connor Gormley back from suspension and the Ramelton man went straight into the starting line-up. Gormley was in for the unavailable Declan Sharkey, the ex-Derry City youth taking up a sentry alongside Bonner in the hosts’ engine room.
Cockhill arrived here on the back of a 1-1 Intermediate Cup draw with Midleton last Sunday, which had been a day of considerable frustration for Cockhill, who must now head for Cork next weekend for a replay.
Player-manager Cullen, Keegan Hegarty, Daniel Doherty and Adam McLaughlin come into a Cockhill side showing four changes from last weekend’s Cup tie.
The visitors fired a warning shot across the Rovers brows when Hegarty’s cross-cum-shot whizzed wide in the 22nd minute, but that was as good as it got for the Inishowen side in part one.
Lee Toland whipped a free kick wide in the early moments of part two while another set-piece, this one from Merritt, deflected dangerously across goal, but ultimately wide.
Letterkenny Rovers: Rory Kelly; Rhys McDermott, Emmet Friars, Dan O’Donnell, Lee Toland; Kevin McGrath, Jonny Bonner, Connor Gormley, Matty Harkin; Gary Merritt, BJ Banda. Subs: Ryan Lonergan for Harkin (78), Chris Malseed for Merritt (82), Davitt Walsh and Jack Dwyer for Banda and McGrath (88).
Cockhill Celtic: Gavin Cullen; Keegan Hegarty, Peter Doherty, Oisin McColgan, Lee McColgan; Daniel Doherty, Ronan Doherty, Jimmy Bradley, Stephen Duffy; Adam McLaughlin, Cathal Farren. Subs: Laurence Toland, Mark Moran and Adam Duffy for McLaughlin, Farren and D.Doherty (76).
Referee: Garbhan Taggart.Tags: