Ardee Celtic are guaranteed a promotion play off at least after they earned a point in 0-0 draw against OMP United at the MDL Grounds on Friday – on a night the Navan men got their hands on the NEFL O’Neill’s Sportswear Division 1 trophy.
Despite failing to hit the back of the net, Celtic dominated the encounter for large periods – especially late into the second half as the Ardee side pressed for a winner on a bitterly cold evening. Niall Conlon went closest when his shot cannoned against the post. It wasn’t to be.
The regular season has ended after last night’s stalemate and what the point guarantees for the Townparks team is at the very least a third place finish and a playoff to determine their fate for the 2017/18 campaign. However, there is still hope for automatic promotion – but it all depends on Wednesday’s encounter between Square United and Black Bull. A win for Ardee Celtic’s local rivals would send them straight up – and what an irony that is.
Celtic welcomed back Paul Carrie back into the fold after suspension while there was a start up front for Niall Conlon on Friday evening. In an even opening period, OMP got the first glimpses of goal. Michael Brennan forced goalkeeper Declan Butler into a save at the near post after a cheap concession of posession down the left.
Minutes later, David Bowens let fly from range but Butler was behind it all the way. The visitors were finding their feet as the first half wore on – with Paul Matondo, Eddie Burke and Conlon in particular knitting together some nice passing passages.
They did have a let off however when referee Conor Byrne waved away appeals for an OMP penalty. Robbie McNeice seemed to catch Brennan in the area. Celtic were having their fair share of the ball but were having trouble making the ball stick in the final third. That said, Conlon was heavily involved. He won a series of free kicks on the left as Celtic looked to pin OMP in.
The hosts maintained their attacking threat and Fintan Clarke was called upon to deflect Bowen’s shot over the bar before Stephen Casey found Brennan with an incisive pass but he couldn’t wrap his foot around the ball and shot harmessly wide.
Just prior to the break, Kenneth Thornton – pressed into action at right back – sent in a cross that clipped the crossbar and then Eddie Burke just failed to connect with Lorcan Myles’ corner.
Conlon had received a knock after a sickening clash with an OMP defender in the first half and there was serious doubt about his ability to continue at half time. He was a central figure as Ardee pressed late on.
Ardee Celtic’s first period of concerted pressure in the second half ended in Matondo curling a shot over from the edge of the area. With 20 minutes to play, Butler had to be alert to deny OMP the opener. Andrew Kearney did well to surge into the area, holding of Carrie’s challenge, but the goalkeeper was out quick to block and the ball was hacked away.
Conlon then saw his shot hit the post after being played in behind the United back four. Baring down on goal, his well struck effort beat David Nolan but not the near upright. Conlon was making hay on the left flank and his superb touch brought down Robbie Reynolds’ forward ball down. He flashed a superb cross into the area where Mikey Nulty just failed to connect.
From a left wing free kick – won by Conlon – Nolan was grateful a goalbound header fell straight into his chest. In the last ten minutes, Thornton pumped a ball into the area and it fell nicely for Conlon but his low volley was saved.
OMP almost capped their title win with a goal at the death. Brennan raced through on goal after holding off Clarke and chipped the ball over the onrushing Butler but the ball fell the wrong side of the far post. Automatic promotion remains a possibility – but Ardee Celtic’s fate lies in Square United’s hands.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Kenneth Thornton, Fintan Clarke Robbie McNeice, Robbie Reynolds, Paul Carrie, Paul Matondo (Conor Osborne, 85), Eddie Burke (Stuart Osborne, 64), Mikey Nulty, Lorcan Myles (Tristan Knowles 82), Niall Conlon.
OMP UNITED: David Nolan, David Bracken, Daire Corcoran, Joseph Garvey, Dylan Doyle, Craig Dixon, Andrew Kearney, Stephen Casey, David Bowens, Michael Brennan, Gavin Boyle.