Ardee Celtic went level on points with OMP United at the top of the North East Football League Division One on Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 win over Torro United – and with just three games to play, the battle for automatic promotion looks set to go right to the wire.
At Powderly Park in Kilberry on Sunday, Ardee Celtic raced out of the traps with two goals in the opening 22 minutes against the relegation battlers, courtesy of Eddie Burke and Gareth Kane. While Fintan Clarke added another after the break nerves were soon jangling. United hit back with two goals in the space of 60 seconds. The defender’s goal turned out to the winner.
While Celtic got the job done, they will rue how they let Torro back into the match. However, they did secure the three points and in a four way battle for promotion to the top tier, the Ardee men are keeping up their end of the bargain.
Winning seven and drawing two of the last nine games, the Deesiders have lost just once in the league all season. OMP United have been similarly obdurate and while Enfield Celtic and Black Bull linger just below them, it looks like the race for automatic promotion and for top spot will be played out between the current top two.
On Friday evening, OMP and Enfield played out a 2-2 draw in which the home side were fortunate to be awarded a late penalty to level the game. If anyone thought Black Bull were out of the equation, an 8-0 win over Trim on the same night dispelled those thoughts.
This morning, it took the visitors just five minutes to break the deadlock. Gareth Kane’s cross from the left found its way to Lorcan Myles. The captain’s shot was deflected into Burke’s path and the versatile 30-year-old got in ahead of Torro centre back Kevin Crowley to beat goalkeeper Ciaran Lydon.
Mikey Nulty, who like Kane had been in action for John Mitchels in the Louth GAA Division three league opener in Philipstown on Saturday, went close himself but he couldn’t beat Lydon as Celtic had the better of things early on.
Ardee Celtic Top League Goalscorers 2016/17
- 8 – Lorcan Myles
- 7 – Robbie Reynolds
- 6 – Gareth Kane
- 4 – Stephen O’Brien, Fintan Clarke
- 3 – Dean Gaynor, Robbie McNeice, Robert Taaffe
- 2 – Tristan Knowles, Mikey Nulty, Eddie Burke
- 1 – Graham Tighe, Darren McMullen, Own Goal
Their pressure told when Kane made it 2-0. The teenager’s corner managed to beat everyone in the area, including Lydon, and nestled in the net. That goal was his sixth of the campaign and his first since notching a brace against Navan Town five games ago.
Myles was denied by Lydon shortly after while goalscorers Kane and Burke had chances to add to their personal tallies too. Burke’s diving header was wide of the target. However, Torro showed flashes themselves. Peader Farrelly was key for them. His free-kick deflected wide before he saw a shot sail wide of the goal.
Ten minutes into the second half, Celtic had Declan Butler to thank after he saved superbly from Farrelly’s well struck free kick. Torro would be made to rue that missed opportunity. From the Font’s next corner, Lydon’s clearance ricocheted off centre-back Clarke and in for 3-0. Remarkably, from that position of comfort – things soon took a downhill turn for the visitors.
Paul Shields netted and then the dangerous Farrelly volleyed in as Torro attacked straight from the kick-off to reduce the arrears to a single goal as Celtic were rocked. They needed Butler to bail them out when Shields looked set to make it 3-3. Aaron Englishby was also denied as Clarke cleared with the clock ticking towards full time. The away side held on through five minutes of injury and Torro pressure for a crucial victory.
The provisional fixture list has OMP United twice in action next week – leaving their remaining home fixture against Ardee Celtic play on the final day, a potential league decider depending on results between now and then. Before that, the Ardee team will have to negotiate trips to Black Bull and fifth placed Johnstown. It won’t be easy, but it’s in their hands.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Graham Tighe, Fintan Clarke, Kenneth Thornton, Robbie Reynolds, Eddie Burke (Robbie McNeice), Mikey Nulty, Paul Carrie, Gareth Kane (Stuart Osbourne), Niall Conlon, Lorcan Myles (Darren McMullan).
Sub Not Used: Robert Taaffe.
Additional reporting by Padraig Wright.