Ardee St Marys hopes of reaching the quarter finals of the Louth GAA Anchor Tours Senior Football Championship hang by a thread this evening after the Blues were beaten 1-07 to 0-09 by Sean O’Mahonys in Dunleer in a repeat of last year’s final.
It’s nine months since the Dundalk men denied St Marys a first Senior Championship win in 21 years and after a six game run that included last year’s showpiece in Drogheda, their involvement in the 2017 edition may be much shorter. The defeat tonight coupled with last Saturday’s draw against St Josephs means Marys fate is now out of their hands.
They have to hope the Sean O’Mahonys beat the Joes by more than one point for progress to be assured. It’s a far cry from the feeling that the run to the 2016 final elicited around Ardee. They gave as good as they got for much of the second match in a Dunleer double header, but the O’Mahonys grinded out the win, as they do.
Alan Kirk’s free got the Marys off the mark before Conor Finnegan returned the favour for the Dundalk men. When the pitch opened up for Ronan Carroll seconds later, he made use of the presentable opportunity to race through and fist over.
After a long spell of Marys possession and patient passing play, Mark Fay slotted over and Paudy Clarke, in from the start this week after starting in reserve against the Joes, notched the point of the half. His effort with the outside of the boot started inside the post and ended just in.
The O’Mahonys had Stephen Fisher to thank for keeping them in touch when he put over, under pressure from Brendan Matthews. Carroll was picking up advanced positions in a fluid Marys lineup. He towered over Ronan Byrne to claim the ball and fist over before Kirk scored from open play. 0-06 t0 0-02.
Darren Clarke, again operating in a deep sweeper-like role, inexplicably missed a free from close range. It was a total mishit, short and low. Before the interval, Keith McLaughlin and two open play scores from Fisher left just one in it at the break. It could have been worse for the Marys. Finnegan and Stephen Kilcoyne hit wides. 0-06 to 0-05 in the Ardee men’s favour.
Clarke, with six points to his name against the Joes, hit his second wide of the evening just after half time. When the first score of the second half arrived, it was one that had the net rippling. There was no pressure on Conor Finnegan when he launched a ball in on top of the goal. The big man Conor Crawley beat his marker in the area to flick the ball back over Peter Duffy and into the far corner.
The Marys management team rued the goal. It happened just as they were about to replace the injured Brendan Matthews with Barry McCoy. They were caught short at the worst possible moment.
That all occurred after the most almighty scuffle involving the vast majority of both sets of players. Dean Matthews, Carroll, Darren Clarke and Eimhin Keenan found themselves at the centre of various little flare ups that popped up. It ended with referee John Murphy issuing yellow cards to Darren Clarke and Ben McLaughlin. Murphy struggled to control things, in truth. It got nasty at times.
Kirk’s free – their first score in 28 minutes of play – and a decent point from Paudy Clarke, who was unbalanced, brought the Marys level before the Dundalk outfit edged in front again. The advantage was played when Robbie Leavy clattered into an opposition player. Finnegan slotted over.
The Marys, having played the better stuff in the first half, were retreating and let this game slip away. McCoy had to be on hand to deny Liam Dullaghan and Niall Eccles also made an excellent block.
The impressive Fisher scored his fourth point of the day to end the scoring, with five minutes remaining. All the Ardee lads had to show for their efforts late on was Ryan Rooney’s wide attempt after a decent move upfield.
Barry Mackin was put through on goal at the death and when Kian Moran tugged at him, referee Murphy probably should have blown up. He did, but that was to signal the end of the game. More Championship disappointment for the Marys. Once again, the Sean O’Mahony’s prove their undoing.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Peter Duffy, John Bingham, Eamon Callaghan, Darren Clarke (0-01), Niall Eccles, Conor Keenan, Eimhin Keenan, Dean Matthews, Brendan Matthews, Ronan Carroll (0-02), Robert Leavy, Mark Fay (0-01), Kian Moran, Paudy Clarke (0-02), Alan Kirk (0-03).
Subs: Barry McCoy for Brendan Matthews (40), Jamie Rooney for Alan Kirk (46), Ryan Rooney for Darren Clarke (53)
SEAN O’MAHONYS: Seamus Quigley, Christopher O’Neill, Ronan Byrne, Michael Clarke, John O’Brien, Liam Dullaghan, Conor Martin, Shane Brennan, Conor Finnegan (0-02), Ben McLaughlin, Stephen Fisher (0-04), Stephen Kilcoyne, Conor Crawley (1-00), Jonathan Connolly, Keith McLaughlin (0-01).
Subs: Barry Mackin for Conor Finnegan (53), Colin Finan for Keith McLaughlin (57)
REFEREE: John Murphy (Roche Emmets)