If Ardee Celtic thought that Navan Cosmos – their opponents in the third round of the Tully Bookmakers Challenge Cup on Wednesday night – may have had their eyes on cup glory later in the week, they were found to be sorely mistaken under the lights at the MDL Grounds.
Premier Division Cosmos provided the opposition for Conor Lynch and Niall Taaffe’s side and proved far too much for the men from Ardee, running out 7-0 winners in the end to ease their way into the next round. Against such a strong top tier team, it was always unlikely that Ardee Celtic would be extending their cup campaign beyond the first week in 2017.
The Cosmos – managed by Derek Coogan – currently sit third in the Premier Division, seven points off leaders Muirhevnamor but with no fewer than four games in hand. This season, league games have had to take a back seat to the Navan side’s cup exploits.
In November, the Meath men knocked Sheriff YC out of the Leinster Senior Cup in sensational fashion, scoring a 0-2 victory away in Coolock. Their reward for that scalp was a draw against Kilkenny champions Thomastown United. That match is this weekend and should they progress, Cosmos will face League of Ireland giants Shamrock Rovers in the fouth round.
With such an incentive to play for, it was no great leap to suggest a Challenge Cup tie against Ardee Celtic on a bitterly cold Wednesday night would not capture the minds of Cosmos players and officials alike. At least, that was a hope Celtic could cling to.
However, it turned into a nightmare for the away side. Colm Carney scored four for the home team, including a 10th minute penalty to open the scoring. Paul Carrie could perhaps consider himself unlucky to concede the spot kick but referee Pat Henry pointed to the spot.
The visitors put out a strong looking side for the cup clash – but were without centre back Kenneth Thornton. Robbie McNeice slotted in at centre back alongside with Fintan Clarke with Robbie Reynolds continuing at left back. The altered defensive line were offered no let up.
The combative midfield duo of Carrie and Mikey Nulty tried in vain to provide a shield in front of the defence, but Cosmos’ quality shone through. By half time, Navan were 5-0 in front. Lorcan Myles had Celtic’s best opportunity in the first half, forcing a fine save from Conor McManus.
In the final moments, substitute Gareth Kane was shown a second yellow card and red, meaning a one game suspension for the young attacker.
Ardee Celtic are, for the first time in a few years, credible promotion contenders and remain very much in the mix to earn a place in the Premier Division for 2016/17. However, the gulf in class between the sides told here. Perhaps, Christmas excesses took their toll.
Lynch, Tafffe and coach Paul Lumsden will dust this off knowing league matters take precedence. On Sunday, they host OMP United at Townparks in a meeting of the last two sides to remain unbeaten in the division this season. Both sides have lost just once in league outings this season.
Carney’s four goals were added to by a hat-trick from strike partner Conor Walsh – a strike duo the Ardee Celtic defence won’t forget in a hurry. They’ll be having nightmares for some time.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Niall Sharkey, Fintan Clarke, Robbie McNeice (Gareth Kane, 46) Robbie Reynolds, Lorcan Myles, Paul Carrie, Mikey Nulty, Paul Matando (Shawni Dowdall, 63), Eddie Burke (Shane Hickey, 62), Robbie Taaffe (Graham Tighe, 54).