Title chase hots up as USL top two meet on Sunday

Cockhill Celtic can put a couple of fingers around the 4 Lanterns Ulster Senior League trophy on Sunday if they can defeat title rivals Letterkenny Rovers.

The top two meet at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds (2pm) in a game of reckoning with four matches remaining, including this weekend’s.

A win for Cockhill, who go into the fixture six points clear, would bring them to within a point of mathematically clinching a fifth title in-a-row; for Letterkenny, they are in must-win territory.

“I always felt that Letterkenny would be there or thereabouts. They have crept up on us. I think it’ll go to the wire,” was the verdict of a cautious Gavin Cullen, the Cockhill player-manager, this week.

“We’d be one step closer, but we’ve been talking about this for months: ‘You’re nearly there’. We’re not there and there is a lot of football left in the four games. It’s far from done and dusted and we never thought it was.

“Finn Harps Reserves should have beaten us last Sunday and every team we play are really up for the game. Every game is tough. We have a hard run-in, so we’re taking nothing for granted.”

Cockhill are set to be without Conor Keddy for the remainder of the season, with the midfielder set to head to Australia, while Cullen is already without Malachy McDermott, Johnny Havlin, Mark Moran and Daniel Doherty.

Winger Ronan Doherty limped out of Monday’s 3-1 loss to Finn Harps in the EA Sports Cup with a hamstring injury and is regarded as a doubt for the weekend, although Ryan Varma will be back in the panel.

Cullen said: “I have always talked about the depth of the squad – but I didn’t think I’d have to dig this deep!”

Cockhill might have wobbled on a couple of occasions since the Christmas break, but their work in the earlier part of the season – when Letterkenny stuttered – has put them in a position of real strength.

A Cockhill win would leave Rovers in the unlikely position of hoping for a play-off – for that to happen, though, they’d need to win all of their last three and Cockhill to lose all three of theirs.

Rovers, though, could really make for a grandstand finale with a win at the home of their rivals.

Cockhill have had the upper hand thus far, but there hasn’t been more than a goal between them. After a 2-2 draw in their first game, Cockhill won 3-2 in Letterkenny in the League while the Inishowen men also won the FAI Intermediate Cup First Round tie 1-0.