THE Premier Division title might have been the big prize on offer, but there was plenty at stake as clubs went through a Survival Sunday in the top flight.
Of the sides in the relegation battle, Evergreen B and Fort Rangers were left smiling after a six-goal thriller and other results ensured their Premier Division status for another season.
The sides met in what had been billed a must-win battle on the Kells Road on Sunday. By lunchtime their 3-3 draw proved sufficient to keep them up, but only after a morning where texts and phone calls carrying results from across the county were taken into account, amping up the excitement levels.
It was a different story at kick-off, as Evergreen B quickly made home advantage count. Mark Owens gave them an 11th minute lead, racing on to a bouncing ball before drilling it home.
Fort Rangers didn’t let them have it all their own way, however and hit back with a double whammy before the break. Conor Bergin had them on level terms by the 36th minute, finding the net from long range, before Emmet Nugent volleyed a Tony Moran cross past Philly Johnson to leave the hosts reeling.
Evergreen looked to be in real trouble when Davy Forristal made it 3-1 five minutes into the second half, but Evergreen’s resolve came to the fore. Conor Barry pulled a goal back soon after, then Ciaran Snype sent the Kells Road into raptures when he levelled matters.
The hosts had more chances to nick all three points, going close in the dying minutes, but in the end both sides were happy with the draw.
“It was a great comeback for us,” said a happy Evergreen boss Ollie Walsh. “We had plenty of chances in both halves to win the game, but the draw was enough to keep us up.”
His opposite number, Jim Cashin, was just as happy.
“We had to battle for that – at stages we were hanging on by a thread,” he said. “It’s been a tough season; Brian Nugent retired and we lost players through emigration, but I’m delighted that we’ve stayed up.”
Both Evergreen B and Fort were assured of their Premier Division status after East End United A lost to Freebooters A on the Fair Green.
Dessie Hayes scored the first, flicking the ball over two defenders before volleying it home.
However, East End United weren’t about to throw in the towel, hitting back through Paul Murphy to make it 1-1, a score that survived until half-time.
Back in front
The Blues went back in front 10 minutes after the restart thanks to Damien Raggett, but defensive frailties saw Brian Lannon hit an almost instant reply for the visitors.
The sides were level as the game moved into the final stages, but Greg Morton’s 75th minute strike saw Booters take the lead for the third and final time. It wasn’t plain sailing to the final whistle, as East End laid siege to the Blues goal, but they couldn’t find a third leveller which would have eased their worries.
“It was a good result to get, but now it’s all about the McCalmont Cup,” said Blues boss Anthony Hanney. “We have a game against Callan United next week, but home advantage is a big help.”
As it stands, the battle to beat the drop is out of East End’s hands. Should Freebooters B beat Deen Celtic A in their last game the city side will move to 18 points, leapfrogging East End on 17. The only other top flight game to be played is between Freebooters A and Evergreen A.
The final game on a busy Sunday morning saw Bridge United cement their place in the Premier Division for another campaign when they beat Deen Celtic A in Goresbridge.
United took a quick two-goal lead thanks to Sean Murphy and an own goal, but Deen Celtic pulled a goal back before the break.
Willie Hennessy made it 3-1, while James Bolger’s strike made it 4-2 to ensure their survival.