Rathfriland U17s took league leaders Sunnyside all the way in a top of the table clash on a wet and slippery Iveagh Park on Saturday morning, eventually losing out 3-1.
It was their first defeat of the season and denied the locals the chance to go within one point of their opponents.
Rathfriland started slowly in the atrocious weather conditions and were one down in the first few minutes when the Sunnyside striker gave McLoughlin in nets no chance.
When the ‘Wee Whites’ got into gear they started to play the better football with Rory Mallon and Shea Byrne proving a handful for the visitors defence.
Justice was done in the 30th minute when the ball broke to Tiarnan Burns on the edge of the box and he blasted home the deserved equaliser. The home side’s joy was short lived however as Sunnyside restored their advantage to go in 2 – 1 up at the break.
With the heavy rain a problem, the game was almost abandoned by referee Wayne Gibson at half-time.
When it did commence, it was a half of remarkable football in the conditions with both teams going toe to toe. The big moment of the game came after a slick move from the home team found Shea Byrne on the edge of the box.
He hit a right footed shot that with the help of the slightest touch from the keeper, hit the inside of the right hand post, ran across the line and went out for a corner to the left of the goal.
As Rathfriland pressed for the equaliser that would have been well deserved, Sunnyside broke forward in the final seconds to seal the win and spark scenes of jubilation with the whole bench and coaching staff on the pitch.
This in itself was a compliment to the Rathfriland lads who had pushed the only other unbeaten team all the way.
Although this felt like a cup final defeat, the performances so far this season would suggest a bright future for this group of players at the club and shows what can be achieved with the hard work of the players and the dedication shown by coaches Gary Young and David Gilmore.
Sean McLoughlin, Aaron Weir, Ryan Clydesdale, James Pollock, Tairnan Burns, Rory Mallon, Mark Weir, Callum Gribben, Shea Byrne, Rory McPolin, Ben Clydesdale, Chris Bamber, Richard Baird, Shanne Smyth, Ethan McDonald, Sam Cantley.