Square United finished up their NEFL O’Neill’s Sportswear Divison 1 campaign on a sun-kissed Wednesday evening in Ardee – going down 0-2 to Black Bull in a result that sees the Drogheda side automatically promoted to the top flight.
Square secured their place in the second tier for next season with a 5-2 win over Navan Town on Sunday and followed up that result with a confident performance on home soil. This result means rivals Ardee Celtic must now contest a playoff to win promotion themselves.
Not for the first time this season, Square put up an impressive performance against a side much higher up the division but were left with nothing as two classy finishes from the visitors in the first half settled the game.
Black Bull showed their intent inside 20 seconds, forcing a free kick on the edge of the area before Luke McDonnell headed wide. United had Vincent Clinton to thank for denying Mannie Smith, the influential midfielder, before Pat Mohan’s team hit the front. David Donovan’s deflected strike sailed over a helpless Clinton.
Square responded and strike duo Chris Kelly and Evan Farrell both missed the target before Andrew Egan failed to connect with Jonny Sheridan’s cross and centre back Stefan Halpenny headed over at the back post from Andy Rogers’ left foot corner.
It was almost 2-0 just before the half hour but Dermot Caraher diverted Kenneth Hurley’s cross behind. After that delivery was cleared, the ball fell to the visiting midfielder who took a touch and curled a beauty into the far top corner.
The home side weren’t to be deterred and just prior to the break, Rogers’ shot from distance was blocked and fell to Kelly who curled his effort just wide. Mark Rooney made three changes at the break – giving run outs to Gary and Jamie McKenny as well as Cian Halpenny.
Minutes after the restart, Halpenny went close. The teenager’s drilled shot forced Alan Sweeney into a save. Sweeney was then culpable of spilling Kelly’s shot and at the other end, Clinton saved from the pacy Evan Corlett after Rogers got in a muddle.
Clinton didn’t know too much about his next save – a double save no less – from Hurley and Barry Reynolds. In truth, Square were the better side here for the majority, especially in the second half. Black Bull needed just a point for promotion and the felt the job was done, which left United to make most of the play.
They did so impressively without having that killer touch in front of goal. Sweeney again denied Halpenny who shot from a narrow angle before he tipped over from Egan. Sheridan shot wide in between.
In the last five minutes there was still time for Rogers’ brilliant strike to be palmed away and for speed merchant Corlett to race away from Kelly and Duffy but drag his shot horribly wide.
There’s no shame in losing to one of the division’s top two sides and Square’s season target of safety was already secure. They’ll enjoy their End of Season Awards Night on Saturday.
SQUARE UNITED: Vincent Clinton (Lee Kilcoyne, 80), Killian Murray (Gary McKenny, 46), Stefan Halpenny (Jamie McKenny, 46), Martin Duffy, Dermot Caraher (Mark Quinn, 64), Darren Mac Neill, Jonny Sheridan, Andy Rogers, Andrew Egan, Chris Kelly, Evan Farrel (Cian Halpenny, 46)