Rathfriland Rangers finished the year in disappointing fashion as they went down 3-0 to an efficient Dunmurry Rec side at Iveagh Park last Saturday.
Having played only once in the previous six weeks due to fixture cancellations, the Whites were dealt a significant blow before kick-off when influential midfielder Stevie McArdle badly injured his ankle in the warm-up.
And that was to prove critical as the Rangers failed to stamp their authority on the game early on and lacked the guile to threaten the Dunmurry goal, while the visitors snatched the lead through a razor-sharp counter-attack.
Dunmurry turned a Rathfriland attack around in a matter of seconds, shifting the ball upfield as the Whites’ defence scrambled to get back into position, but the sweeping move was executed with such rapidity and the striker calmly applied a finish to give his side a 0-1 lead.
And it was to get worse for Rathfriland 15 minutes later when they fell further behind to another well-taken goal.
The lack of match practice was evident in a disjointed Rathfriland performance, and any momentum that had been built up by a good early-season run and the collection of clean sheets which had come with that had clearly been halted by the shortage of recent games.
Dunmurry capitalised on that once more by bagging a third goal shortly before the break and leaving the Rangers with a mountain to climb after the restart.
While Rathfriland did improve in the second-half, chances remained at a premium as the Dunmurry back-four snuffed out any sign of danger at first sight and frontmen Darren McGrath and James Costello were largely left to feed from scraps. Former Rathfriland defender Simon McWilliams was the stand-out player for the visiting side, winning virtually every tackle, loose ball and header he challenged for.
The never-say-die Johnny Kernaghan did attempt to test the keeper from range on occasion but couldn’t find a way back into the game for the Whites with his efforts, and the game petered out as Dunmurry collected the three points with relative comfort.
RATHFRILAND RANGERS: Maguire, McCracken, Main, Hutchinson, Lockhart, Kernaghan, Megaw, Macken, Tumilty, McGrath, Costello. Subs: Magennis, McDowell.