Top of the Hill Celtic . . . . . . . . . .2
Trojans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
(Trojans won 4-2 on pens)
IT PROVED a fitting way to end the season for Trojans Football Club as they completed their 75th anniversary campaign with victory in the Top Four Cup Final on Sunday.
And it was a case of third time lucky for Paul Higgins’ side after suffering defeats in two previous cup finals this season.
The Creggan men will certainly relish this victory over a Top of the Hill Celtic side who controversially claimed victory over them in the Terry Kelly Memorial Cup decider earlier in the season.
Trojans were made to do it the hard way, however, after a semi-final victory over Park Bar and the final ended in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Top of the Hill Celtic goalkeeper was shown a red card early in the second half to sway the game in Trojans’ favour.
Indeed, that incident proved decisive as Trojans recovered from a poor first half display to take the lead courtesy of a brace of goals from man of the match, Darren Coyle.
The Waterside men battled all the way and managed to get back on level terms to force a penalty shootout.
Trojans goalkeeper, Gary Ramsey emerged the hero in the shoot-out, saving from Ryan Brown and Coyle converted the winning penalty.
Top of the Hill Celtic got off to the perfect start as they took the lead on 15 minutes.
Brendan Doherty received the ball in a promising position, but instead of going for goal he rolled the ball across the goalmouth where Gary Cassidy stood unmarked and applied the finish.
Cassidy appeared to be in an offside position but referee, Cyril Hargan waved away the Trojans’ protests.
Top of the Hill came close to doubling their advantage when James Boyd found Darren Harkin in space in the penalty area, but the Waterside man miscued his shot completely and sent the ball over the crossbar.
And Trojans were fortunate not to concede again when Boyd crossed to the back post where Andy Devlin headed into the hands of Gary Ramsey.
Top of the Hill were well on top at this stage but the game changed dramatically on the half hour mark.
The ball broke kindly for Darren Coyle on the edge of the area and the midfielder drilled a low shot under Ryan McCloskey to level the scores.
Those celebrations could have been short-lived as
Trojans were working hard to stay in the game but there was no questioning Top of the Hill’s superiority.
Ryan Brown sent a superb header just wide of the upright on the stroke of half-time.
The game was turned on its head during the opening stages of the second half when Darren Coyle went through on goal only to be brought crashing to the ground Ryan McCloskey.
The Top of the Hill goalkeeper was already on a yellow card and the referee gave him his marching orders for the foul.
Midfielder Gary Cassidy took McCloskey’s place in goal and he was unfortunate not to stop Darren Coyle’s penalty.
That should have signalled the start of a dominant period for Trojans but they were pegged back almost immediately as Darren Harkin’s corner again found James Boyd unmarked who volleyed the ball past Ramsey to make it 2-2.
Coyle could have sealed an unlikely win shortly afterwards when his attempted lob directly from kick-off was kept out by the retreating Cassidy.
Cassidy then saved what looked like a certain goal midway through the half when Coyle went through on goal again only for the makeshift keeper to race out and put the midfielder under just enough pressure to force him to shoot into the side netting from a narrow angle.
There was little that Cassidy could do with Trojans’ next effort, however, as Steven Wallace sent an outstanding shot goalwards from 30 yards only for the ball to strike the top of the crossbar.
Neither team could be separated in extra-time and the final was to be decided on penalties.
Trojans goalkeeper Gary Ramsey saved from Ryan Brown while Darren Harkin also missed for Top of the Hill leaving Coyle to convert the winning penalty.
Top of the Hill Celtic - Ryan McCloskey; Gerard Kelly, Andy Devlin, Ryan Brown, Brendan Elliott; Neil Harkin, Gary Cassidy, James Boyd, Darren Harkin; Michael McCrudden, Brendan Doherty.
Trojans - Gary Ramsey; Kieran McDaid, Adam Collins, James Carlin, Sean McGinley; Tony Deery, Damien Coyle, Steven Wallace, Jason McGonagle; Tiarnan McMullan, Dee Power.
Referee - Cyril Hargan.