Rathmullen on the up
Soccer: North East Football League
Rathmullen Celtic have been savouring the Division 3 title and second successive promotion following a dramatic final day that could have seen Dundalk rivals Bay snatch the crown.
Both teams started out on the same number of points as Rathmullen played host to Donacarney Celtic and Bay made the long trip to Meath to face Newtown United, meaning that a win for the two pace-setters would have forced a play-off for the league crown.
With nerves getting the better of both teams, the Drogheda side were held to a 1-1 draw with Donacarney, but remarkably that still proved enough as Bay slipped to a surprise 1-0 defeat in their match.
Rathmullen manager Stuart Barnett went through the wringer as the action unfolded but ultimately got the outcome he wanted as his team - captained by former English Premiership star Sean Thornton - were presented with the Division 2 trophy.
'It's our second promotion in a row and our first championship win, but we were pushed all the way by Bay from Dundalk right through to the last day and it was very nerve-racking,' Barnett admitted.
'Every couple of minutes there were people letting us know what was going on in the other match, and there were six minutes left in our game when the Bay match finished.
'The tactics [at that stage] were to get the ball away as far up the field as possible and play it into the corner.
'Sean [Thornton] has been great. I can't say enough about him. He always gives you something, whether it's in training or coming up with that bit of magic in games like banging in free kicks.
'I have to mention Jason O'Boyle at the back as well. They two great football heads who work to get lads to training, motivate them and keep them on their toes.
'But the team would be nothing without Robbie McDonnell who put a lot of work in and set up the club with his brother Barry.'
Already, thoughts have turned to next season when Rathmullen will step up to Division 2, but Barnett takes comfort from the recent successes of other Drogheda clubs.
'We're going to add to the team and also keep the players we have, and push to make it two titles in a row. Look at teams like Newfoundwell, Hazel Lane and Albion who won their title. Moneymore could win Division 4 as well.
'There's a lot of teams from the Drogheda area who starting to make an impact and putting the town back on the map - for a while there was not a lot of success down here.'