Rathfriland miss out on play-off place on the final day

IN their first season in the NIFL Premier Intermediate League, Rathfriland Rangers were 45 minutes away from a Championship play-off against Dergview.
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A big crowd at Rathfriland for Saturday’s showdown with Ballymacash.A big crowd at Rathfriland for Saturday’s showdown with Ballymacash.
A big crowd at Rathfriland for Saturday’s showdown with Ballymacash.

All eyes were on this PIL fixture with Armagh City, favourites to take the second spot place, 2-0 down at home to Distlliery at half-time and Rathfriland 1-0 up against Ballymacash – who also were in the mix for the much sought-after runners-up spot.

News came through that Armagh were 2-0 down on 35 minutes and this was to get better for the Whites when Matty Holloway drove into the box and slotted home to make it 1-0 to Rathfriland.

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Whispers of a potential play-off against Dergview circulated, but within minutes of the restart news filtered through of an early second-half sending-off for Distillery which may have been the turning point in the afternoon.

Rathfriland Ladies with home kit sponsor Joanne Topping of Martha Jaynes.Rathfriland Ladies with home kit sponsor Joanne Topping of Martha Jaynes.
Rathfriland Ladies with home kit sponsor Joanne Topping of Martha Jaynes.

Worse was to follow – Armagh scored two quick goals to level it at 2-2 and Rathfriland’s fortunes completely turned on their head when the visitors Ballymacash scored a great goal into the top corner by Higginson to draw level on 68 minutes.

Eight minutes later it was 2-1 to the visitors; McComb stooped at the back post to firmly head home what ultimately turned out to be the winner.

Now Armagh were still in the driving seat, but – if they had conceded – amazingly it would have been Ballymacash who would have secured the runners-up spot.

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Armagh then scored a late third goal to kill it off and claim the play-off place.

Overall, what a fantastic effort from the Rathfriland men who have excelled in their first season in the NIFL Premier Intermediate League.

Despite the last-day defeat, Rathfriland finished fourth in the league.

Thanks from the club to matchday sponsors – Andy Joe’s Restaurant, Banbridge, David Davenport, Brian Cowan, DN Tyres, David Macauley, Sheepbridge Interiors and Derek McDowell.



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Rathfriland's nerves were soon settled when, in the first minute, a diagonal ball from John Dickson found Ben Johnston on the left, who controlled well and fired into the top right corner of the goal.

It was soon to be two when Sam McCallister was felled in the box and Adam Loughlin dispatched the penalty.

The remainder of the half was a fast-paced contest with Town hitting the post from a corner and Rathfriland continuing to threaten without adding to the tally. HT: 0-2.

Rathfriland were playing some great football and piling on the pressure, but it took until the 83rd minute to add the third when Joshua Ingram burst through and slid the ball under the advancing keeper.

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Three minutes later it was four when Adam Loughlin scored again from the spot. Banbridge were up against it and went down to 10 men. Sam McCallister added two more goals to the tally in added time, the first assisted by 16-year-old Nathan Laird and the second a low finish in off the right-hand upright. FT 0-6.



Rangers Reserves travelled to Oxford Sunnyside Reserves on Saturday and came away with a fantastic 6-2 win.

Rathfriland went 1-0 up through Nathan Laird but the home side equalised before Joshua Ingram put the visitors into the lead again.

Adam Loughlin then made it 3-1 before Laird got his second of the game making it 4-1 just before half-time.

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Oxford then scored to make it 4-2 but Rathfriland again extended the gap through Sam McCallister and Nathan Laird completing a fine hat-trick to leave the final score at 6-2.



Friday night saw Rathfriland ladies play their first home league game of the season at the 3G against a strong Donegal Celtic.

The Belfast team took the lead but in no time the ladies were on level terms when captain Tia Wilson burst through to slot home.

In the 69th minute the ladies got their reward when Lucy Megaw’s shot was only helped into the net off a Donegal Celtic defender to make it 2-1.

Overall a great team performance with captain Tia Wilson picking up player of the match.

Thanks to the Bronte family for sponsoring the first home game of the season.

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