DOWNPATRICK failed to exorcise the ghosts of cup finals past when Rathfriland deservedly lifted the Border Cup for the first time at Seaview last Tuesday. This bitter defeat now means Downpatrick have lost the last eight cup finals they have played in and to be brutally honesty, they never really looked like winning this one, click on the link to read more…
Match Report by Charlie McStay
Tuesday 27th December – NAFL Border Cup Final
Rathfriland Rangers 2 v Downpatrick FC 1
The county town team were subdued throughout and flattered to deceive with far too many players having off days and heavy touches.
Downpatrick started well enough with Jack McLaughlin prepared to run at the Rathfriland back four at every opportunity, the first real opening of the game came in the sixth minute when a Neil Teggart free wasn’t cleared, but Ricky Kerr blasted the loose ball over the top. Rathfriland had the ball in the back of the Downpatrick net a minute later when a Jonny Black cross was converted by James Costello, but his strike was ruled out for a foul on ‘keeper Michael McKenna.
With 10 minutes gone McLaughlin injected a bit of pace to the proceedings when he skipped past a few players before shooting wide. Almost immediately down at the opposite end, an intricate passing move saw Costello set up Ally Wilson who seemed to head the ball into the net, but an eagle-eyed referee saw that the Rathfriland striker had used his hand and flashed a yellow card at him for his troubles.
McLaughlin again led Downpatrick’s response and he linked up well with Galbraith before his shot was deflected for a corner. With 15 minutes gone Galbraith lacked support and had to go it alone, but he too shot wide. Downpatrick were then dealt a terrible blow when Peter Telford, whose physicality was giving Rathfriland problems from set-pieces, had to go off with concussion after a clash of heads and was replaced by Barry Holland.
Rathfriland held sway for a while after this and Conor Larkin headed a Davy Graham cross over the top and Darren McGrath had a shot deflected for a corner. Downpatrick came more into it as the first half drew to a close, but it was uninspiring stuff until Wilson and Roy dovetailed for Paul Kirk’s side. Rathfriland cleared their lines well after a Downpatrick corner and the ball landed at the feet of Wilson, just inside the Downpatrick half. He had nothing whatsoever on and was all alone, but he held the ball up, turned Mark Holland and clipped a majestic cross field pass into the box for the overlapping Roy to run to. Roy didn’t even blink as he met the ball on the full and drilled an unstoppable volley past McKenna from 17 yards out for a wonder goal.
Downpatrick were shellshocked but responded magnificently two minutes later when Philip Traynor spotted Shane Harrison off his line and lobbed the ball over him and into the net from 35 yards out. Everyone thought these two sensational goals would give both sides the confidence to drive on, but nothing was further from the truth. Rathfriland changed their tactics at the start of the second half and played a high pressing game, attacking the defender in possession, rather than letting them come out with the ball.
This ploy meant that the game became bore fest with Downpatrick forced to play the ball backwards and Rathfriland happy to rely on the counter attack. Downpatrick did break out of this stranglehold on a few occasions, but Terence Bell took the wrong option when he shot straight at Harrison and Galbraith wasted a great chance when he snatched at a glorious ball from Teggart. With 62 minutes gone McLaughlin escaped from Black’s clutches out on the right and fired the ball low and hard into the six yard box, but Galbraith was inches away from getting a touch.
Five minutes later Harrison kept out a Galbraith shot with his feet after Downpatrick’s top scorer had to run the gauntlet on his own yet again. Back came Rathfriland and Downpatrick survived a few goalmouth scrambles with Mark Holland and Bell blocking a Wilson on the line and Rickey Kerr doing likewise when Wilson looked certain to score. The warning signs were there for Downpatrick and with 78 minutes gone Rathfrilandf struck it lucky when a Graham corner hit Bell on the lower leg and trundled over the line.
Downpatrick tried to respond, but too many heads were down and apart from a Mark Holland header at the back post they had little to show for their efforts as Rathfriland held on for the win.
Downpatrick FC: M McKenna, N Teggart, M Holland, M Carson R Kerr, P Telford, T Bell, J McLaughlin, S Galbraith, P Traynor, A McGarry. Subs: B Holland, E Boyle, T McIlhone.
Rathfriland Rangers: S Harrison, J Roy, J Black, C Larkin, D Evans, S Coulter, D Graham, J Scannell, J Costello, A Wilson, D McGrath. Subs: J Graham, B White, N McConnell.