COAGH United are the Belfast Telegraph Championship Two champions for the second time!
The Hagan Park side left plenty of frayed nerves after going behind to Ballyclare Comrades and, at one stage, looked like missing out on promotion, never mind the title! But Jason Gillespie levelled to steady the ship and then James Ferguson struck in first-half stoppage time to put the side - managed by Noel Mitchell and Stephen Uprichard – back in the driving seat.
Then Mark’s Scotts goal with just two minutes left meant the champagne corks could finally be popped to spark unprecedented celebrations for Coagh.
It was fitting end to a turbulent season that has witnessed its fair share of ups and downs, particularly for a Coagh United side that, with seven players missing through injury during the title run-in, limped over the finish line in triumphant fashion.
The Super Saturday saw four teams go into the final day with a chance of winning the title. With Coagh in the driving seat – simply needing a win to secure the top spot – the tightest final day in Championship 2 history had Dundela just one point behind the leaders with Knockbreda and Lurgan Celtic also in contention.
In an afternoon of high drama, text messages, tweets and phone calls were flying back and forth to keep track of all the games and work out all the various permutations. Ballyclare’s opener combined with Dundela leading 2-0 against Portstewart and Knockreda also leading 1-0 at Ballymoney meant Coagh were sitting in third and in big trouble.
After losing in agonising fashion to Lurgan Celtic on Tuesday night, it looked like Coagh were going to throw it all away. But the pendulum finally swung in the County Tyrone men’s favour as first Gillespie fired home the equaliser and then Ferguson popped up just before half-time to put them into a 2-1 lead. Advantage Coagh.
Dundela and Knockbreda kept the pressure on with a couple more second half goals while Lurgan Celtic had thrown away their slim chances with a 1-0 defeat to Wakehurst. Finally, Scott struck to put Coagh 3-1 ahead, throwing all the complicated alternatives out the window with the outcome of the league title finally decided in the simplest of fashions.
Coagh are now promoted to Championship 1 as champions by a single point, along with Dundela, who secured the runner-up spot, just a point above Knockbreda, in one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the League.
Coagh ended worthy winners. They led the pack for most of the season before becoming caught up in Irish Cup replays that left them with plenty to do to catch-up. That run took its toll on the County Tyrone side who had a massive seven players out for the run in.
But they dug deep, with a number of players stepping up from the reserves to make a significant difference. In fact, the injuries to the first team may well have cost Coagh’s second string the Mid-Ulster Reserve Championship – although the side, managed by Chris Leacock and George Lennox, did regroup to put the Wilmor Johnston League Cup into the Hagan Park trophy cabinet, in their very successful first season in the Mid-Ulster Reserve Championship.
No one would have anticipated what an outstanding season this would be for the Hagan Park outfit. At the start of the season Noel Mitchell and Stephen Uprichard were left to rebuild the Hagan Park side after eight players decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Nine players signed up and a few more in January to carry and injury hit side home.
On the way Coagh had a decent run in the Intermediate Cup and could have gone further but being caught up in the Irish Cup replays which saw them see off Loughgall and Newbuildings after a double replay.
That run saw Coagh enter Windsor Park for the first time in the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup. Linfield may have won 4-0 but Coagh came out of the lion’s den with their heads held high and it gave them the confidence to take the title, despite a dip in form.
As well the players and joint managers, congratulations should also go to the Hagan Park back room staff - coach Mark McMemeny, phyiso Clive Topley, goalkeeping coach Trevor McNicholl and water man Roy Crooks. The second team were run by Chris Leacock and George Lennox. A massive congratulations to the partnership of Noel Mitchell and Stephen Uprichard who apart from overseeing all the playing staff have now added their second Championship title. Well done to all involved.
Coagh United’s pressman, Errol Hassin, would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and support during his recent stay in hospital.