Colts Firsts’ bid to win the NADAFL Premier League came up short on Saturday when they could only draw 2-2 with Mourne Rovers.
However, a last minute equaliser from skipper Rory McDonnell could still prove invaluable as it kept the dream alive and has forced Annalong into winning all three of their remaining games if they are to pip Carryduff to the title.
The biggest ever crowd to attend a Colts game turned up to get behind the boys but Mourne Rovers had turned up determined to spoil the party – and spoil it they did.
For a team sitting second bottom of the league – having won it two years ago – they seemed to rediscover their form on Saturday although Colts dominated the game and had enough chances to win it comfortably.
After a nervous start from the home side, Rover capitalized midway through the first and took the lead when a long ball through the middle came off the head of an attacker and the ball drifted over the head of Odhran Devlin and ended up in the net.
Left back Paul Murphy, who was superb throughout, did everything he could to rally the team making lung bursting runs up and down the left wing throughout. Kealan Devlin had a fierce drive over the bar while Sean Irwin went close on a couple of occasions and Darragh Brownlee was proving to be increasingly influential as the half wore on and the equaliser finally came on the 35th minute. A long throw from Fergus McBride found McDonnell on the left hand side of the six yard box and he managed to prod the ball past the goalkeeper to delight the home supporters.
Colts had shown a lack of composure in the first half but came out in the second period trying to win the game while Mourne had most of their team behind the ball. McBride and Murphy continued to try to get the team up and going while Marc Hegney, Joe Sweeney, McDonnell and Murphy were composed at the back and rarely looked in trouble.
Calum McSorley was introduced on the right for the hard working Paul Maguire while Michael Deeny came on for Stevie Doherty. Deeny brought composure to the midfield for the first time in the game and was influential as Colts started to play the brand of football they have played all season with some good passing moves and Devlin and Hegney both went close from headers while Irwin also had his chances.
Completely against the run of play, Rovers took the lead with just five minutes left on the clock completely against the run of play. It looked all up for Carryduff as defeat would have left them behind Ballyvea and right out of it. However, Captain Fantastic McDonnell refused to lie down and he somehow conjured up an equaliser with two minutes remaining.
Even then Colts still had chances to win it and young Aaron Waddell was really unlucky when the ball fell to him in the box but took at awkward bounce and he was unable to finish. Rovers keeper then made two remarkable saves to keep the scores level.
With league officials there with the trophy, the disappointment was deep and heartfelt, but at least the result has forced Annalong to win their last three games to win the league, so it will go to the wire. They play Celtic Bhoys (h) on Tuesday, Tollymore (a) on Saturday) and then Celtic Bhoys (a) next Tuesday, 2 May.
Colts: O.Devlin, Sweeney, Murphy (Waddell), McDonnell, Hegney, McBride, Maguire (McSorley), Devlin, McBride, Doherty (Deeny), Brownlee