Belfast Harlequins 1 Raphoe 3
Raphoe got their Premier League campaign off to a scintillating start on Saturday past with a hard fought 3-1 win away to Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park.
Raphoe had revenge on their mind after being on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline to these opponents only a few weeks ago in the Kirk Cup. It wasn’t to be a day of all positives however as Raphoe lost two key players to serious injuries during the game.
The home side started strongest and controlled the game for the first fifteen minutes. Raphoe were playing very erratically and some loose passes and mistimed tackles gifted Harlequins several short corners and good chances early on. Raphoe remained stubborn at the back however and didn’t concede. They gradually worked their way into the game and settled into a good rhythm. Luke Witherow had Raphoe’s best chance of the half, when he carried the ball skilfully into the opposition circle and his shot on the reverse went narrowly wide. Harlequins did take the lead however when a long ball found a forward in the Raphoe circle. He turned the last defender and shot low and hard past Rankin in goal.
Just before halftime Raphoe’s Simon Goudie sustained an injury to his arm when a Harlequins player fell hard on him on the ground. Raphoe reshuffled their defence and saw the game out till half time. Harlequins led 1-0 at the interval.
Coach Rodney Bates urged his team to simplify their passing game in the second half and start controlling play. Raphoe accepted the challenge and it paid dividends when Luke Witherow smartly won a short corner early in the half and Matthew Lecky slapped the ball home. Harlequins were not going to lay down and thought they had regained their lead shortly after.
Alan Meehan deflected the ball into his own goal but the umpire deemed that the ball had been played in from outside the circle and no Harlequins player got a touch. He gave a long corner despite the home sides protests.
Raphoe capitalised and took a 2-1 lead when Ben Wallace scored a screamer of a reverse into the top left corner. Royal and Prior schoolboy Wallace will do well to score a better goal this season. The game took a turn for the worse at this stage.
Raphoe’s Matthew Lecky went down hard and damaged an existing dislocated shoulder injury he picked up in the Premier League two seasons ago. Matthew had to leave the pitch and was taken to hospital.
With fifteen minutes left to play, Raphoe could have made the mistake of sitting back and defending their narrow lead but captain Ian McGoinigle insisted his team kept pressing. This seemed to take Harlequins by surprise and they looked nervy. Luke Witherow put the final nail in the coffin after a lovely passing move involving the entire team, he shot diagonally from the top left of the circle, leaving the keeper rooted to the spot. The game ended 3-1 to Raphoe. The team have made a fantastic start to the Premier League season but it came at a cost. Matthew Lecky has damaged an existing shoulder injury and Simon Goudie has broken a bone in his arm. Both players will be out for a few months and everyone at the club wishes them a speedy recovery. Best for Raphoe was Luke Witherow.
Raphoe host South Antrim on Saturday next with a 2.30p.m pass back at The Royal School grounds.
Team: Jonny Rankin, Matthew Lecky, Simon Goudie, Alexander Tinney, Alan Meehan, Ian McGonigle (C), Kit Regan, Ben Wallace, Keith Meehan, Luke Witherow, George Patterson, Paul Stewart, Alan Lyttle, Stephen Cleverly. Coachs Rodney Bates, Richard Eaton
Belfast Harlequins 1 Raphoe 3