Lyre Rovers 1
Drinagh Rangers 2
DRINAGH Rangers made it a Good Friday for their Premier Division title bid with victory away to Lyre Rovers.
Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Keith Jagoe’s first-half strikes earned the league leaders a vital win that nudged them closer to glory.
Drinagh now know that victories over title-rivals Clonakilty Soccer Club and Dunmanway Town in their two remaining fixtures will secure the Premier Division title.
‘This is always a hard place to visit so we will take the three points,’ Drinagh co-manager Don Hurley told The Southern Star.
‘We have Clonakilty and Dunmanway in our final two games. This is where we want to be. If you told us at the start of the season that we had two games and that we would win the Premier Division if we won both, we would take that.
‘It is a great testament to all the hard work the lads have put in throughout the year to stay in contention. Long way to go but we will keep going.’
Premier Division leaders Rangers travelled to Lyre ten points clear of the chasing pack at the beginning of a crucial Easter period. But the Canon Crowley Park’s sizeable advantage is also down to having played four games more than their closest challengers. Beamish Cup finalists Lyre were equally desperate for victory. Rovers began two points above the relegation zone and without a host of first-team regulars.
A full-strength Drinagh didn’t waste time and broke the deadlock inside two minutes. Barry O’Driscoll (H) turned and fired beyond Sean Ryan.
Keith Jagoe made up for wasting an earlier opportunity by doubling the visitors' advantage on 16 minutes. Only a magnificent Sean Ryan point-blank stop prevented the hosts from falling further behind shortly after.
Lyre continued to press forward and were rewarded with a goal from a set piece.
A sustained period of pressure preceded an Adam Hunt free kick that squeezed into the bottom corner after 18 minutes. The remainder of an entertaining opening half saw both sides waste additional opportunities prior to changing ends with Drinagh deservedly 2-1 in front.
Rangers looked menacing at the beginning of the second period with Barry O’Driscoll (H) going close on three separate occasions. Robbie and Tom McQueen’s intelligent approach play ensured the visitors dominated both territory and possession.
Rovers were indebted to Ethan Draper and Conor McCarthy’s defensive efforts during a third quarter O’Driscoll (H) and Jagoe brought the best out of Sean Ryan. Yet for all the Canon Crowley Park club’s efforts, the score remained unchanged with 20 minutes to go.
The hosts were a threat from corners and free kicks and saw a Draper in-swinger miss an upright by inches prior to Ryan bravely denying Jagoe at the opposite end.
Both sides poured forward in search of a goal resulting in a plethora of late chances. Jack Payne-Murphy punched clear under pressure before an O’Driscoll (H) chip cleared the Lyre crossbar by centimetres. Sean Ryan was relieved to see an audacious Robbie McQueen long-range attempt drift beyond an empty goal prior to Rovers’ Adam Hunt rattling an upright.
‘This is a results business, especially at this time of the year,’ Drinagh co-manager Declan Deasy admitted.
‘Tonight was a massive experience for a lot of our younger players. We haven’t been put under that kind of pressure or in such an intense situation for a long time. Those younger lads are learning all the time and this win over Lyre will stand to them. That kind of battling performance is what it is all about if you want to win a league title.’
Lyre Rovers: Sean Ryan, Cathal Dineen, Alan O’Sullivan, Ethan Draper (captain), Conor McCarthy, Mike Keohane, John Deasy, Sean O’Donovan, Brian Walsh, Adam Hunt, Ricky O’Flynn. Subs: John Begley, Ciarán Nyhan.
Drinagh Rangers: Jack Payne-Murphy, Shane Collins, JJ Collins, Gearoid White (captain), Ciarán O’Regan, Robbie McQueen, Tom McQueen, Donal O’Donovan, Owen Tobin, Barry O’Driscoll (H), Keith Jagoe. Subs: Tomás Connolly, Sean Calnan, Barry O’Driscoll (T), Eoin Hurley, Rob Oldham.
Referee: Anthony McDermott.