Cockhill Celtic moved to within a point of an eighth successive Ulster Senior League title last night.
The Inishowen side will clinch the crown again on Sunday with a point at fellow title-chasers Bonagee United.
The Gavin Cullen-managed Cockhill have been the standard-bearers in the USL in recent seasons, having swept the boards with successive doubles until that march was ended by Letterkenny Rovers in last season’s Donegal News USL League Cup final.
Cockhill Celtic strengthened their position at the top of the league with a deserved victory over a youthful Derry side.
Cockhill Celtic 4 Derry City Reserves 0
Cockhill started on the front foot forcing Derry goalkeeper Jack Lemoigman into two early saves, dealing well with an Oisin McColgan header and Stephen Duffy shot.
He had no chance with Cockhill’s opening goal in the ninth minute when a pinpoint Ronan Doherty free kick found Laurence Toland whose powerful far post header found the net.
Derry were well in the game and put together a good move on 19mins and it took a fine interception from James Bradley to deny Patrick Ferry a clear chance.
Cockhill doubled their lead on 25 minutes. A Bradley Callaghan shot was charged down. James Bradley was first to the loose ball and played in Adam Duffy who showed composure to slot low to the net.
Derry kept playing and went close twice before half time. Ferry had a speculative effort over the bar after a corner was kept alive before Ronan McKinlay shot narrowly wide.
The game was over as a contest on 49 minutes when Lee McColgan whipped a free kick in at the near post from the edge of the box.
Derry continued to create half chances with Caolan McLaughlin dragging a shot wide before Brendan Barr forced Gavin Cullen into a routine save.
Cockhill added a fourth on 82 minutes when Adam Duffy calmly converted a penalty after Daniel Doherty was impeded in the box.
BONAGEE United overcame Letterkenny Rovers in a Dry Arch downpour on Wednesday night.
Bonagee United 3 Letterkenny Rovers 2
Garbhan Grant, Ryan Rainey and Jamie Lynagh hit the goals as Bonagee went three-up before Kevin McGrath and Lee Toland, from a penalty, reduced the deficit and put a little gloss on it for the visitors.
Grant, the former Rovers attacker, arced to the inside of Rory Kelly’s post on 25 minutes to give the hosts the lead.
Second-half goals by Rainey and Lynagh helped take Jason Gibson’s away from their cross-town foes.
Kevin McGrath reduced the arrears for ten-man Rovers – who had Rhys McDermott sent off after the hour – but it wasn’t enough to inspire a comeback.
Bonagee welcomed Micheál Doherty back from a suspension while veteran Michael Funston was also back in the fold.
Bonagee began brightly and Grant tested the reflexes of Kelly just two minutes in. The Letterkenny ‘keeper was equal to his thumping half-volley, reaching out to his left-hand side to turn away for a corner.
Emmett Friel’s marauding run created another opening for the home side, but his cross had too much zip.
At the other end, Chris Malseed and Gary Merritt shot off target for Rovers, who began to probe.
However, it was Bonagee who hit the front when Grant riffled home.
Rovers fell to a 2-1 loss away to Cockhill Celtic on Sunday, putting a massive dent in their title hopes.
Kelly superbly turned over from a Ryan Rainey header ten minutes into the second half and, from the resulting corner, Lynagh powered a header off target.
As the sheets of rain teemed down so too did the red mist. First, Rovers coach Anthony Gorman was banished from the sideline before full-back Rhys McDermott was given a straight red card following an incident involving Doherty on 65 minutes.
Three minutes later, Bonagee doubled the lead as Rainey got around Kelly and kept his cool with a Rovers defender breathing heavy in pursuit.
Home skipper Lynagh found the bottom corner with a tidy finish to add to the woe.
Rovers, though, issued a reminder when Kevin McGrath got on the end of a cut-back to fire past Eugene Ferry.
McGrath had another chance, but his attempt was too high with the looks at the watches from the home followers lengthening.
In the 97th minute, Toland drilled home from a penalty for a late consolation goal.
Rovers left with added worries around the fitness of BJ Banda, who was carried off in the second half.
Bonagee United: Eugene Ferry, Jamie Lynagh, Emmet Friel (Michael Funston 57), Gareth Breslin (Duncan Patterson 80), Mark Harkin, Sean Hume, Dan O’Donnell, Ryan Rainey (Peter Carr 74), Garbhan Grant, Jordan Armstrong, Micheál Doherty (Dylan McCroary 80).
Letterkenny Rovers: Rory Kelly, Rhys McDermott, Lee Toland, Connor Gormley, Emmet Friars, Kevin McGrath, Ryan Lonergan (Leon Doherty 89), Chris Malseed (Zach Gorman 51), Gary Merritt (Matty Harkin 63), Joel Gorman, BJ Banda (Davitt Walsh 74).
Referee: Marty McGarrigle