Rathfriland Rangers rounded off their remarkable season with a draw against Dunmurry Rec at Iveagh Park last Thursday night.
Torin Kerr opened the scoring for Dunmurry right on the stroke of half-time but his goal was cancelled out by Marty’s Havern’s long-range strike midway through the second period.
The Whites had already won the title several days earlier and several first-choice players were absent for the game due to captain Conor Larkin’s wedding, but those who stepped in were able to make their mark.
Young centre-half Ryan Clydesdale started the game and acquitted himself superbly well, while Sam Cantley, another product of the club’s prosperous youth system, was introduced at right-back in the second half and looked assured in possession.
Chances were at a premium for much of the first half but the visitors took the lead in added time when the quick and tricky Nigel Prentice raced down the left wing to get beyond Jake Redpath before delivering a cross that Kerr lashed into the far corner.
There was a hint of tiredness in the legs of some of the Rathfriland players and it was hard to blame them for that given the exertions of the last few weeks of the title run-in.
But it meant they could not create chances as freely as they have done through the season.
Instead, it took a goalkeeping error to hand the Whites an equaliser.
The keeper rushed out of his box to clear a harmless ball but instead of sending it into touch he struck it straight at Havern.
Positioned wide on the left and 30 yards from goal, he struck the ball sweetly and it sailed into the unguarded net to beat the chasing defender.
The result meant the Whites had finished the season unbeaten in eight games, having lost only three of the 26 in the entire league campaign.
It has been an impressive year by anyone’s standards and manager Clifford Sterritt will want to continue his and his side’s phenomenal work in the new season, with the Premier Division offering a whole new challenge.
RANGERS: Shane Harrison, Jake Redpath, Ryan Clydesdale, Nathan Baird, Jonny Black, Darren McGrath, Conor Fegan, Marty Havern, Thomas Lockhart, James Costello, Alastair Wilson.
Subs: Sam Cantley, Lee Feeney, Andrew Stewart.