Cockhill crowned champions as Doherty goal seals win at Swilly   07/05/2017

Cockhill Celtic are champions of the 4 Lanterns Ulster Senior League for the fifth season in a row after a narrow win over Swilly Rovers on Sunday.

Swilly Rovers 0 Cockhill Celtic 1

By Chris McNulty at Swilly Park

Peter Doherty’s fourth League goal of the season in the 20th minute gave Cockhill a win that knotted the green and white ribbons around the handles of the trophy again.

Cockhill needed only to avoid defeat here, but Gavin Cullen’s team made sure of the title thanks to Doherty’s goal – one that was debated by the hosts.

Ryan Varma delivered a deep corner from the left-hand side and Doherty had to stretch uneasily but the defender managed to steer past Jamie Lee Blaney.

In spite of the efforts of Duncan Patterson, assistant referee Marty McGarrigle deemed that the ball had crossed the goal-line.

Doherty had netted the League-winning goal last season when his late equaliser secured a 2-2 draw with Derry City to capture the silverware.

The champions went close after 10 minutes when midfielder Gerard McLaughlin found himself with an opening at the back post after a Varma free kick from the left-hand side made it all the way over.

The angle was awkward, though, and the chance was gone in the baking heat by the Lennon.

Garbhan Friel, who has missed large chunks of this season through injury, has been Cockhill’s leading marksman for their previous USL triumphs and he was inches from the opener two minutes later.

Friel timed his run perfectly to beat the offside flag, but a right-footed shot from 15 yards was just wide of the far corner.

After Doherty broke the deadlock, it took another goal-line intervention to keep them from doubling the lead. Swilly’s Paul Bradley rose to head off the line from a delicious Ronan Doherty corner that was bending to the net.

Although Cockhill were in command, they couldn’t find the second and when Marty McDaid riffled wide for Swilly on the stroke of half-time, it served as a shot across the Cockhill brows.

Swilly famously ended a four-and-a-half-year unbeaten League streak for Cockhill with a 3-2 win at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds in January and they made life difficult for the champions at times.

Cockhill were without the suspended Gerry Gill, but in his absence Varma’s deliveries were proving every bit as effective.

Cockhill were almost in for a second when Varma sent Friel away, but Dylan Hegarty’s well-measured tackle kept him at bay.

McLaughlin headed wide from a Varma corner and Ronan Doherty’s header was brilliantly tipped over by Blaney with Cockhill camped in the Swilly half.

The second didn’t arrive, but it didn’t need to. Even though Letterkenny were 4-0 winners at Fanad, Doherty’s goal means that Swilly have won the title with three points to spare.

Swilly Rovers: Jamie Lee Blaney; Ronan Boyle, Dylan Hegarty, Duncan Patterson, Shaun Crossan; Ryan McDaid, Marty McDaid, Tony McNamee, Paul Bradley (Michael Murray 90); Brandon Toye (Frankie Campbell 90), Laurence Toland.

Cockhill Celtic: Gavin Cullen; Paul McDermott, Peter Doherty, Oisin McColgan, Jason Breslin; Derek Doherty (Michael Owen Doherty 90), Gerard McLaughlin, Ryan Varma, Ronan Doherty (Dara McDermott 90); Garbhan Friel, Jimmy Bradley.

Referee: Marty Quinn.