Ardee St Marys moved top of the Louth GAA Division 1 table on Wednesday night as a 3-18 to 2-15 win over title rivals Naomh Mairtin enhanced their league title winning credentials.
All three Marys goals arrived in the first half and while a comfortable 11 point lead was eaten into late on, the Marys held on to jump from third to first as the Dreadnots lost 2-07 to 1-09 against Cooley. Robbie Leavy, John Bingham and Alan Kirk were the Marys goalgetters on the night.
With just three rounds remaining at the start of the evening, any game from here on in constitutes a big one. The visit of Naomh Mairtin was the very definition of that. The Marys knew a win would seem them leapfrog their opponents into at least second place – depending on how league leaders Dreadnots got on against Cooley Kickhams. Both results went the right way.
Last week’s win over Mattock Rangers proved a boost for the Marys too. Hugh Durrigan was able to select much the same team from six days ago but Brendan Matthews returned and there was also a start for Barry McCoy.
The Ardee side still have to play Dreadnots and old foes Sean O’Mahonys too in the league, so things aren’t about to get any easier. That all means nothing can be taken for granted as the pursuit for league success continues. Against the men from Monasterboice, things got off to an excellent start.
Daire McConnon scored the game’s first point before Mairtin hit back through Brian McQuillan and two frees from Louth’s Sam Mulroy. The Blues however were just warming up and soon were in control of the contest. Kirk put over after a good move involving Ronan Carroll and McConnon and then Jamie Rooney fed John Bingham who slotted over.
Kirk notched another before Leavy hit the net for the first of three first half goals. The midfielder blasted one across goalkeeper Craig Lynch and in, leaving the stopper with no chance. There was no pressure on Wayne Campbell when he replied but that was the exception not the rule in a period of home dominance.
Dean Mathews hit two scores – one from play and one from a well taken free 15 yards from goal – to extend the lead. This was an exhibition of high quality score taking from both teams it should be said. It just so happened the Marys were having more of them.
However, the Monasterboice side were right back it in shortly after the half way point of the first half. Mulroy escaped the attentions of Niall Eccles and blasted the ball past Duffy. Carroll had cheaply lost the ball in midfield after midfield partner Leavy had won it.
Remarkably though, within seconds the ball was in the net again. This time it was at the opposite end as John Bingham got forward and from a similar position that Leavy netted six minutes earlier, he directed his shot past Lynch.
Carroll pointed from play before Mulroy was at it again, hitting two frees in quick succession. Kirk and McConnon added further scores before the half was out, as did Padraig McDonagh and Campbell and Val Leddy for Naomh Mairtin but it was Kirk who stretched the lead even further.
His point effort from a free fell short but rather than claim – or help over the bar – Mairtins stopper Lynch did neither and he fumbled the ball into his own net. That left it 3-09 to 1-08 at the interval.
After the break, the home team never looked really flustered at all. The visitors took their time coming out for the restart but if it was a rousing team talk they were receiving, it did little good. The Marys outscored them 0-08 to 0-02 in the opening 15 minutes of the second half.
It took McConnon just 18 seconds to add to his tally before Mulroy hit back. Kirk, McConnon, Dean Mathews, Kian Moran, Ronan Carroll and Eimhin Keenan all added scores. Moran’s was probably the pick of the bunch.
Two Mulroy frees were added by McDonagh lashing one over as Naomh Mairtin racked up some scores. A super point from Carroll and another McConnon score meant they could never really eat into the Marys lead. A big 27 point tally will draw attention to the forward line purring once more but this was an efficient defensive display too – if a little indiscipline and carelessness crept in late on.
Brian Berrill should have found the net late on but didn’t with the goal gaping. That might have set it up for an interesting finish but JP Rooney did when Eccles pass was intercepted and he finished emphatically. The Marys didn’t score in the last 18 minutes of play.
They needed Peter Duffy as the clock struck 30. He parried a speculative ball in towards his goal but as the ball spilled loose, he was on hand to claim at the second attempt.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Peter Duffy, Brendan Matthews, John Bingham (1-01), Barry McCoy, Conor Keenan, Eimhin Keenan (0-01), Kian Moran (0-01), Robbie Leavy (1-00), Ronan Carroll (0-04), Dean Matthews (0-03), Daire McConnon (0-04), Mark Fay, Alan Kirk (1-04), Jamie Rooney, Niall Eccles.
Subs: Cian Commins for Jamie Rooney (46), Ryan Rooney for Ronan Carroll (49)
NAOMH MAIRTIN: Craig Lynch, Thomas Sullivan, Mick Fanning, Paul Berrill, Padraig McDonagh (0-02), Benny Reilly, Jack McCarville, Val Leddy (0-01), Wayne Campbell (0-01), Conor Healy, Sam Mulroy (1-07), Stephen Campbell, Brian Berrill (0-02), JP Rooney (1-01), Brian McQuillan (0-01).
REFEREE: Colin Halligan