Last gasp Harkin strike secures McAlinden Cup for TOTHC

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Top of the Hill Celtic 1, Trojans 0

AN ELATED Darren Harkin lapped up the plaudits after capping an unforgettable weekend with a last gasp winning strike which secured the 2013/14 McAlinden Cup for Top of the Hill Celtic on Sunday.

And that was just 24 hours after the striker netted a hat-trick for Claudy Rovers against Ardmore in a 3-1 win in the North West City Cup Final!

Top of the Hill Celtic FC, winners of the 2014 McAlinden Cup. DER1914MC131

Top of the Hill Celtic FC, winners of the 2014 McAlinden Cup. DER1914MC131

Harkin had put those celebrations on ice as he prepared for Sunday’s Blue Riband Cup decider and it was worth the wait as he once again proved the man for the big occasion.

So it was a memorable weekend for the Top of the Hill lad and his decisive strike in Sunday’s victory over Trojans at Brandywell Stadium ensured the Gobnascale side didn’t end their D&D campaign without a trophy for the first time since the 2008/09 season.

On that occasion Niall Logue’s side lost in both major cup finals and finished runners-up in the Premier Division and this win avoided a repeat of that frustrating season.

Top of the Hill boasted a side which included the Irish Championship’s ‘Player of the Year’, Institute’s Michael McCrudden and former Derry City, ‘Stute and current Limavady United defender, Mark Scoltock.

Mr. Jimbo Crossan, chairman, D&D FA presents the McAlinden Cup to Pol Brown, captain, Top of the Hill Celtic after their victory over Trojans in the final at Brandywell on Sunday. DER1914MC129

Mr. Jimbo Crossan, chairman, D&D FA presents the McAlinden Cup to Pol Brown, captain, Top of the Hill Celtic after their victory over Trojans in the final at Brandywell on Sunday. DER1914MC129

But it was Harkin who stepped up to the plate in the dying seconds of the game, showing great composure and determination to decide the destination of the trophy.

It was another heartbreaking moment for Trojans Football Club who lost out in their second successive McAlinden Final after another dramatic finale.

The Creggan club lost out in the dying embers of extra-time in last year’s final to Park Bar so Paul Higgins and Raymond Carton will be understandably frustrated after coming so excruciatingly close once again.

Frantic Opening

Top of the Hill Celtic celebrate their 1-0 victory over Trojans in the final of the McAlinden Cup at Brandywell on Sunday. DER1914MC130

Top of the Hill Celtic celebrate their 1-0 victory over Trojans in the final of the McAlinden Cup at Brandywell on Sunday. DER1914MC130

The Waterside Cup kingpins had began at a ferocious pace and really should have stormed into an early lead during a frantic opening 15 minutes.

Firstly Neil Harkin’s free-kick from the edge of the penalty area almost caught out Trojans keeper, Bernard Doherty after three minutes but the goalkeeper gathered the ball at the second attempt.

Sixty seconds later, Darren Harkin then latched onto a long punt up-field and got in behind the last man but his shot across goal went agonisingly wide of the far post with Doherty rooted to the spot.

The Trojans’ defence were on tenterhooks and Doherty was fortunate his parried save from Neil Harkin’s curling free-kick went behind on 12 minutes.

Top of the Hill continued to put pressure on the Trojans’ defence and Top of the Hill skipper, Pol Brown’s first time shot from inside a crowded penalty area was cleared off the line by Sean McGinley.

And with 15 minutes gone Gerard Kelly’s superb cross-field pass sent McCrudden scampering clear on the left flank but he drilled his shot across goal and wide.

Trojans had weathered the storm and while they were extremely fortunate not to be behind, they slowly began to grow into the game and dominated the scoring chances in the final 20 minutes of the half.

Niall Grace bent his shot inches wide of McGilloway’s left hand post on 25 minutes before the lively Paul Simon Tracey’s long distance effort was gathered safely by the Top of the Hill keeper.

Trojans’ best chance of the half arrived on 36 minutes when Tony Deery’s corner kick was met by a glancing header from Grace which almost crept into the far corner of the net.

And just before the interval, Brendan McDonald’s well executed strike on the volley was eventually dealt with by McGilloway after the keeper had initially failed to hold on to the powerful shot.

Trojans began the second half on the front-foot and Grace should have done better when he got onto the end of a defence-splitting throughball from McDonald, but the striker screwed his shot badly wide.

The match began to become disrupted with both managers opting to shake things up with a number of substitutes.

With nine minutes remaining the warning signs were there for Trojans as Darren Harkin almost capitalised on a poor touch from Trojans centre-half, McGinley but his low strike on goal was parried clear by Doherty.

Harkin was then gifted the perfect way to make up for that miss in the final minute as he got on the end of a long ball from substitute, Johnny Hume and side-stepped the advancing keeper before slotting into the near post to seal the win for the Gobsnascale men.

Top of the Hill Celtic - John Joe McGilloway; Conor Houston, Dee McGee (Mark Scoltock 59 mins), Ryan Brown, Gerard Kelly; Michael McCrudden, Pol Brown, Neil Harkin (Johnny Hume 81 mins), James McGinley (Hugh Carlin 55 mins); James Boyd, Darren Harkin; Subs Not Used - Maurice Curtis, Conleith Deeney, Chris Monteith.

Trojans - Bernard Doherty; Paddy McClean, Eugene Deery, Sean McGinley, Brian McClean; Paul Simon Tracey (Darren Quigley 84 mins), Dean Power (Sean McKinney 61 mins), Tony Deery, Patrick McKeever (Paul Smith 53 mins); Niall Grace, Brendan McDonald.

Referee - Paul Doherty.

End of year Presentations

The annual Derry & District presentation night will take place in the AOH Clubrooms next Monday night. Further details in Friday’s ‘Journal’.

There a number of teams which have yet to pay their entry fee for next season. This must be paid by May 19th!

Harps sail into Top Four Cup Final

Phoenix 1, Brandywell Harps 7

Brandywell sailed into the final of the Top Four Cup in some style with an impressive performance against a Phoenix side who didnt do themselves any justice giving their recent improvement during a difficult season.

Brandywell went in front early on when Stephen Melly headed home from a corner.

Phoenix almost equalised, however, McGilloway made a great save to deny S. Harley. Paul Doherty and David McDaid were causing all sorts of problems and the two combined for Brandywell’s second goal with McDaid running through and rounding keeper Soal before applying the finish. Just before half-time, Harps added a third when E. Ferry curled a free kick low into the bottom corner.

In the second half Gary Melly got on the scoresheet when, from Rogan’s cross, his spectacular scissor-kick from the edge of the area gave Soal no chance.

Paul Kelly netted Brandywell’s fifth when put through by Cassidy before McDaid got his second with a fine solo goal. Stephen Melly rounded off the scoring for Brandywell and claimed his second of the game when his initial effort was well saved by Soal, however, he tapped home the rebound.

And Phoenix netted a late consolation goal through Barry McGavigan.