Ardee St Marys returned to winning ways on Thursday night, and moved to within a point of the summit of League Division 1 in doing so, as they saw off Mattock Rangers 2-15 to 1-14 at Pairc Muire.
Following an indifferent period of late, the Marys put the Collon men to the sword in a sodden second half to enhance their own league title aspirations and leave Mattock deep in the relegation mire. Mark Fay and Alan Kirk hit the net in each half and Daire McConnon returned to the fold with a virtuoso performance.
The Marys were looking to bounce straight back from Saturday’s disappointing Championship loss to the Sean O’Mahonys – a result which leaves their progress in the 2017 edition hanging in the balance and also raises the prospect of a relegation playoff to come. The visit of the men from Collon also handed the Blues a chance to gain revenge for their previous meeting this season.
Back in April, Mattock inflicted a four point defeat on the Marys to end their defence of the Paddy Sheelan Cup. That loss came after the Marys hit 6-56 in their three group games as they started the season in scintillating fashion. Since then, things have been mixed for last year’s SFC finalists. Coming into the game in Ardee tonight, they remained in contention towards the top of the league Division 1, but had won just once in their last five outings.
The management made two changes to the team that lined out against the O’Mahonys last Saturday – Jamie Rooney and McConnon returned in place of Darren Clarke and Brendan Matthews.
The visitors got the scoring started through David Reid’s long range free and Conor Leneghan’s well taken point. The Marys responded in kind through Kian Moran – after a good move involving Ronan Carroll and Rooney – and Paudy Clarke.
Reid and Kirk took turns at pointing with frees before Alan Caraher restored the Mattock lead. They moved up field with ease before he put over from a narrow angle. That was before the game began to swing in the home team’s favour. Carroll and Leavy were having the better of the midfield battle. It was a blow to Rangers to lose Hugh Donnelly to injury in the first minute of the game.
Dan Bannon couldn’t take in a catch in midfield and Robbie Leavy found Carroll who in turn fed Kirk. He turned his marker inside out and blasted his effort over the bar. It was a reasonable goalscoring chance but the net would bulge soon after.
After Dean Matthews kicked a free from off the ground over the bar, they got their goal. McConnon superbly caught the goalkeeper’s kick out 50 yards from goal. He ran forward and and fed Fay who put his shot low to the stopper’s left.
It was 1-06 to 0-05 after Reid put over another free and Kirk pointed again for the Marys. Carroll and McConnon notched scores of their own soon after. McConnon didn’t quite take his next catch quite so well. In a defensive position, Caraher capitalised on his mishandling and he played in Daire Englishby who’s shot for top corner was superbly saved by Peter Duffy.
The Marys five point advantage was wiped out in the minutes before the break. A decent score from David Reid was quickly followed by a fortuitous goal Brendan Leacy goal. Leneghan’s mishit shot bounced up into his arms and he smashed it in from close range. Terry Donegan’s point in added on time levelled it at 1-08 to 1-08.
Clarke took just 20 seconds on the second half to edge the Marys in front again. It was getting dark at Pairc Muire on a cloudy evening and, as threatened, the heavens soon opened. Reids David and Adrian both put over to hand the Collon men the lead before Clarke got his third of the game and Carroll his second.
Reid was proving Mattock’s main outlet going forward. He would score three more in the second half but the Marys surged away from the league strugglers. After a swift move upfield, Rooney found Kirk who composed himself and fired low into the net for 2-11 to 1-11.
Kirk and Clarke were guilty of missing presentable point and goal chances soon after but scores from Carroll, McConnon and Kirk saw the Marys race clear of their rivals from down the N2. Kirk brought his tally for the night to 1-03 with a free.
Goalkeeper Duffy was again called into action to save well from JP Watters in the final minutes. While David Reid did manage two late points and Michael McKeown scored a fine effort of his own, it wasn’t enough for Mattock. Injury time saw a schmozzle between Niall Eccles and David Reid – and then Ivor Sherlock and John Bingham clashed at the death.
Mattock’s league struggles continue but the Marys have the top of the table within their grasp. It’s a watching brief for them on Sunday as they focus on Sean O’Mahony’s and St Joseph’s in the Championship.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Peter Duffy, Eamon Callaghan, John Bingham, Niall Eccles, Conor Keenan, Eimhin Keenan, Kian Moran (0-01), Robbie Leavy, Ronan Carroll (0-03), Daire McConnon (0-02), Dean Matthews (0-01), Mark Fay (1-00), Paudy Clarke (0-03), Alan Kirk (1-05), Jamie Rooney.
Subs: Barry McCoy for Eamon Callaghan (38), Ryan Rooney for Dean Matthews (48), Cian Commins for Paudy Clarke (58).
MATTOCK RANGERS: Mark Lenehan, James Caraher, Sean Gilsenan, Shane Maguire, Brendan Leacy (1-00), Terry Donegan (0-01), Michael McKeown (0-01), Dan Bannon, Hugh Donnelly, Conor Leneghan (0-01), David Reid (0-08), Adrian Reid (0-02), Daire Englisby, Ryan Leneghan, Alan Caraher (0-01).
Subs: Ciaran Calvey for Hugh Donnelly (2), JP Watters for Alan Caraher, Ivor Sherlock for Ryan Leneghan, Caolite Hickey for Shane Maguire, Shane Grimes for Conor Leneghan.