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Adair wants Cup success to spark new life into Loughgall

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Just champion: Loughgall players celebrate their Bob Radcliffe Cup success after beating Annagh United 3-1 at Lakeview Park

Just champion: Loughgall players celebrate their Bob Radcliffe Cup success after beating Annagh United 3-1 at Lakeview Park

Just champion: Loughgall players celebrate their Bob Radcliffe Cup success after beating Annagh United 3-1 at Lakeview Park

Loughgall reignited their love affair with the Bob Radcliffe Cup with a laboured, but ultimately comfortable, victory over 10-man Annagh United in mid-Ulster football's Boxing Day showpiece at Lakeview Park.

Goals from Stephen O'Neill, Daniel Burns and Warner Mullen led the Villagers to their 12th victory in the 17 finals they have contested, while the sending-off of Annagh talisman Scott McCordick just before the break left his team-mates with simply too much to do.

Loughgall had been installed as pre-match favourites, but recent form suggested Annagh were in with more than a fighting chance, although they went behind after 16 minutes when O'Neill slid in to meet Chris Kingsberry's low cross to finish a fine, flowing move.

Within moments, Mullen squandered two terrific opportunities to put Loughgall further in front, firing both straight at Annagh goalkeeper Ciaran Fox.

Up until the half hour, Loughgall had looked comfortable and were the only side creating chances, but Shea Campbell then nodded the ball home from a free-kick to breathe life into Annagh and swing the momentum.

Suddenly, the Portadown side were posing a threat and McCordick burst forward from his own half to lay a chance on for Francis McCann which should have been converted, but shortly after showing his promising creative spark, McCordick got himself sent off, collecting a second booking for a needless late challenge on Mark Carson.

It forced Annagh into a reshuffle at the break and as the second half progressed, both sides traded openings.

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At one end, O'Neill could only find the side netting after a magnificent ball over the top by Steven Ferguson, while Campbell almost snatched a lead for Annagh but his drilled shot whistled narrowly past the upright.

The crucial blow was eventually struck by Loughgall on 75 minutes when Burns rifled in a thunderous strike from 20 yards off the underside of the crossbar.

And with Annagh throwing men forward in added-time, Burns turned provider, pacing down the left to whip in a devilish delivery for Mullen to sidefoot home.

Villagers boss Brian Adair - who won his fair share of Bob Radcliffe Cup medals during his trophy-laden years as a player with the club - collected his first piece of silverware as a manager, and backed his squad to use their triumph as a spur towards returning the County Armagh club to their glory days.

"We're hoping this can be a springboard," said Adair.

"Our league form has to improve, but I firmly believe in this group of players and now it's about using this to kick on and progress from.

"Everybody knows what this club means to me. I had nine years here as a player and now to put a trophy down as a manager is nice. But this is about my players and I back them all day long."

Annagh boss Dean Smith was left to rue the "massive impact" of McCordick's dismissal.

"It's hard enough playing against Loughgall on their home pitch in a cup final," he said. "With 10 men it makes it near impossible.

Castlewellan Town beat Mourne Rangers 5-0 to win the Newcastle League's Bobby Dalzell Cup for the fifth season in succession. Daniel Morgan, Sean Russell, Steven Trainor and John Clarke were among the goals.

In the Carnbane League's festive final, Newry Celtic beat Clanrye Athletic to win the Bessbrook Cup.


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