HOPES of landing a fourth Premier Division title in a row still burn brightly for Evergreen A - but the desire to stay in the top flight is just as strong for Fort Rangers.
The Wallslough club lost to the champions-elect on Sunday morning, but despite ending their day empty-handed Fort showed they won’t go down without a fight.
It looked like Evergreen A were on course to record a big win when they took an early lead thanks to Niall Andrews, then moved even further in front through David Grincell. A Chris Whearty strike made it 3-0 for the visitors, but Fort gave their rivals something to panic about when an Emmet Nugent brace saw Rangers close to within a goal.
The equaliser never came for Fort - although they believed they had a chance when a late offside call went against them - but the side may have picked up the belief they needed ahead of a six-pointer against the Lions A this weekend.
“We have plenty to work on ahead of a massive game against the Lions,” Jim Cashin told the ’People. “Win it and we’ll stay up.”
As for Evergreen the result - their 13th successive win of a season where they have maintained a 100% record - pushed them eight points clear of Freebooters A and leaves them just two points away from retaining the title. They have three games left to play, but can earn the silverware should they beat Thomastown United A on Friday evening (kick-off 7pm).
Fort’s hopes of surviving in the top flight were given a massive boost by another side who don’t know what it means to throw in the towel. Freebooters A moved into second place in the table when they beat Clover United A 4-1 in Rathdowney. In what was the Blues’ second game in three days - they drew 2-2 with Thomastown United A on Friday evening - two goals each for David Rice and Ger Hayes helped them to their 10th league win of the campaign.
Greg Morton and Aidan Nolan were on target for ’Booters on Friday evening in United Park, Nolan securing a point for the visitors after former Blue Aaron Broaders and Robert Skehan had pushed Thomastown into a 2-1 lead.
While Sunday’s result may be too little too late for Freebooters, defeat leaves Clover sweating on other games. Having played all 16 of their league ties they lie just two points clear of Fort Rangers, who have two games in hand. One win for Fort and Clover will go down - but two draws and the sides will be forced into a playoff.
Promotion and relegation were also a huge factor in the Division One games over the weekend. While East End’s 2-1 win over AC Kilkenny A earned the points that took them back into the top flight things weren’t as clear for Callan United A. The McCalmont Cup champions couldn’t get the win that would prevent them from sliding into Division Two next season.
Sunday’s game with Stoneyford United could have provided safety with two games to spare, but a 0-0 draw means they are still two points from safety. Callan have 17 points, two less than Urlingford (19) but crucially they have two games in hand - should they beat the already-relegated Highview Athletic tomorrow (Thursday), then Urlingford will go down along with the Graig men.
Goals from Shane Denieffe, Sammy Johnson and Vinny Wallace saw Newpark B pick up their ninth win of the campaign and beat River Rangers 3-1, a result good enough to keep their promotion hopes on track. Although they trail second placed Freshford Town by two points they have three games left to play whereas Freshford will play their final league game when they travel to the Kells Road to face Evergreen C on Sunday morning. Should results go their way - Newpark B will take on Thomastown United B in the afternoon - the city side could be on their way to Division One by Sunday evening.
Elsewhere Evergreen C beat Thomastown United B 1-0 at United Park while the Lions B and Brookville shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw. John Muldowney and Michael Vaughan were on target for the Lions, who still harbour an outside chance of avoiding relegation to Division Three - they are eight points worse off than both Brookville and Clifden, but could pull off the great escape should other results go their way. The Lions have three games left to play, Clifden one and Brookville two - but the Ballyragget side have to take on title-chasing Tullaroan and Newpark B in their final two outings.
At the top of the table Tullaroan have three games left to play, but can take a massive step towards the title over the next eight days. A win over Brookville tomorrow (Thursday) would see them open up a nine-point lead over Newpark B, the only team who can catch them at this stage. Should they grab all three points there a point against Evergreen C on Thursday week will be good enough to win the league.
Proceedings in Division Three have long been wrapped up. St Anne’s will join champions Bridge United B in Division Two next season.