LETTERKENNY ROVERS 5 DRUMKEEN UNITED 3
after extra time
BY AIDAN O’DONNELL
EXTRA-TIME strikes by Chris Malseed and Davitt Walsh helped Letterkenny Rovers claim the Donegal New Ulster Senior League-Cup following a thrilling final against Drumkeen United at Dry Arch Park last night.
Conor Carlin handed Drumkeen an early lead but goals from Jamie Doherty, Walsh and Glenn Hamilton put Rovers into a seemingly unassailable position with under half an hour to play.
Drumkeen, however, managed to force extra-time after a second from Carlin and a brilliant effort from Richie Moore a minute before the end of a pulsating ninety minutes.
Benny Bonner and Marty Gormley’s side were unable to build on their momentum in the additional two periods of ten minutes as Malseed fired home his side’s fourth in the ninety-fourth minute before an exquisite fifth from Walsh at the very end capped off a memorable cup final at the home of Bonagee United.
The league-cup is the first piece of silverware for Letterkenny since their last league triumph in 2009 and the Leckview Park outfit will now be hoping it spurs them onto yet another assault on this year’s league crown.
For Drumkeen, who also last tasted success in 2009 when they lifted the league-cup at the expense of Fanad United, the wait for silverware continues for another season.
Both sides enjoyed half chances early on, with Anthony Gorman, who rolled back the years with a majestic performance, and Conor Carlin both going close at either end, while Garbhan Grant was unlucky not to get more purchase on a Malseed flick on.
Drumkeen then edged ahead, somewhat against the run of play, on eighteen minutes when a long ball forward by Gary Patton wasn’t dealt with by Dan O’Donnell. The Rovers defender miscued his attempted clearance, allowing Carlin the chance to race in behind before firing past the helpless James Gallagher with a half-volley from just inside the penalty area.
Eamon McConigley’s side eventually gathered themselves and went on to enjoy the larger spells of possession in a sloppy first-half.
Paddy McNulty headed wide at the back post after a sublime ball by Gorman, while Walsh was denied a leveller by a brave block from Chris Kyle.
Letterkenny’s approach play lacked fluidity and incisiveness for much of the first half but their equaliser three minutes before the break more than made up for what went before.
Veteran full-back Jonathan Minnock drilled an inch-perfect ball into the feet of replacement Mark Forker, whose cutback into the area found Walsh. The striker then showed great awareness to cushion the ball invitingly into the path of Jamie Doherty, who slammed home into the bottom right-hand corner from just outside the area.
Drumkeen’s response was excellent and only for a timely intervention by Malseed to deny David Craig, they might well have went in at the break a goal up.
Malseed then had a pop shot at the start of the second half easily saved by McCauley, who then released David Craig with a quick throw-out down the left side. With the Letterkenny defence well pushed up, the midfielder played a teasing ball in behind Conal McGonigle to free Carlin, who was then denied a second courtesy of a brilliant point-blank save by Gallagher.
It proved something of a costly miss as Rovers soon moved ahead for the first time in the game following another beautifully-worked move.
A neat one-two between Minnock and Gorman resulted in the former releasing Jamie Doherty on the overlap down the left flank. The winger, who enjoyed a fantastic game throughout, then played a first-time ball into the danger area and Walsh arrived right on cue to steer delicately beyond McCauley.
The result appeared to be wrapped up just after the hour mark when Hamilton climbed highest to head home a Minnock corner to put Rovers 3-1 up.
However, an opportunistic strike by Carlin, after Gallagher produced another last-ditch block on Sean Ferry, reduced the deficit and the St. Patrick’s Park outfit were given a welcome lift heading into the final twenty minutes.
It proved a nervy finale for Rovers whose lead was kept intact by a combination of poor finishing and a fantastic goal-line clearance by Minnock to thwart second-half substitute Lee McMonagle.
But just as it seemed Letterkenny had weathered the storm, Drumkeen came up with an equaliser in the eighty-ninth minute when Richie Moore coolly fired into the bottom left-hand corner after the Rovers defence could only half clear a corner by Bonner.
There was still time for a winner from either side as referee Steven Toner added on several minutes to the end of the regulation ninety.
The best chance fell to McNulty, who, after controlling a cross by Walsh, was denied the winner by a wonderful outstretched save by the Drumkeen netminder.
Letterkenny grabbed the initiative four minutes into extra-time when Malseed converted a cross by Minnock, his second assist of the day, before Walsh applied the gloss with an emphatic lob with the last kick of the game.
Letterkenny Rovers: James Gallagher; Conal McGonigle, Glenn Hamilton, Dan O’Donnell, Jonathan Minnock; Garbhan Grant, Anthony Gorman, Chris Malseed, Jamie Doherty; Paddy McNulty, Davitt Walsh. Sub: Mark Forker (Grant, 29 mins).
Drumkeen United: Paul McCauley; Gary Patton, Ryan Gildea, Ray Quinn, Benny Bonner; Raymond Sweeney, Chris Kyle, David Craig, Sean Ferry; Richie Moore, Conor Carlin. Subs: Lee McMonagle (Sweeney, 50 mins), Peter McNamee (Craig, 61 mins), Seanie Gallagher (Patton, 94 mins).
Referee: Steven Toner.