Ardee St Marys are out of the Louth GAA Senior Football Championship after they went down 0-17 to 0-14 against St Josephs in tonight’s Group 1 playoff in Dunleer.
Last year’s finalists had to play with just 14 men for 55 minutes after Jamie Rooney was sent off early on. Their one player deficit didn’t stop the Marys from holding a three point half time advantage but the fear was that as the game went on, the numerical disadvantage would tell.
It did – but the Marys post-mortem will also point to a total of 14 wides throughout the game. That wastefulness can’t be linked to the early dismissal. Darren Clarke – who scored six against the Joes in last month’s clash – hit seven here.
Whilst neither side came into this game having officially booked their place in the knockout stages of the senior championship, this game was a one-off winner-take-all encounter in every sense of the word. Defeat means the Marys must now face Cooley Kickhams in a relegation playoff semi-final next Sunday.
Clarke, who was the Marys main man in that first encounter at The Grove, was again at the forefront for the Ardee men, but this time lining out in forward line having been asked to take up a deep position in the first meeting between the sides.
His free opened the scoring before he added another in open play. Daire Smyth responded before Alan Quigley was guilty of a poor finish when through on goal. Seconds later, Rooney received his marching orders.
He clashed with Stefan Potts and then Philip Kinahan as referee Paul Finnegan brandished red for an alleged stamp. There wasn’t much in the way of complaint from players in blue. Seconds later, Derek Mulligan levelled the match.
An excellent point from the hands from Clarke put the Marys back in front before Craig Doherty and Conall Smyth edged the men from Dromiskin ahead.
Ronan Carroll was taking up advanced positions and he scored two points either side of an Eimhin Keenan score. You wouldn’t have known the Marys were a man down in what was an energetic first half performance. Quigley and Daire McConnon swapped points.
Darren Clarke’s fourth and fifth points either side of Conal O’Hanlon’s free left it at 0-09 to 0-06 at the break.
Peter Duffy helped Daire Smyth’s effort over the bar upon the resumption. Hugh Durrigan’s side had a let off moments later when Quigley dragged a shot at goal wide. Doherty was free and in a perfect position to score.
Dean Matthews smashed a point over the bar but O’Hanlon and Quigley narrowed the gap. The Marys, with a lead to hold onto, weren’t as incisive as they should have been when in possession. Kian Moran’s superb point kept two between the teams.
Darren Clarke’s sixth of the evening came after Alan Kirk won a 45 but Quigley was having a sensational game. The Marys profligacy proved their downfall. Quigley wasn’t missing a trick or a shot in Dunleer. He added to a routine free with a brilliant kick from the right, virtually a sideline ball.
Quigley equalised with a deftly hit free with just over 10 minutes left and by that stage, the Joes were in the ascendancy. The Marys cheaply gave the ball away in midfield and Daire Smyth took advantage for the lead.
Off the back of two wides, Clarke found the posts with his next effort. Robbie Leavy was barged off the ball unfairly by Conal Smyth. Quigley rounded off his personal scoring tally for the day with a beaut to restore the lead and the Joes had a two point lead for the first time in 120 minutes of football between the sides. Conal O’Hanlon did the business.
McConnon, Carroll and Clarke were all guilty of shooting wide in quick succession. That’s what did it for the Blues’ hopes of Championship progression. St Josephs were capable of repelling what came their way – they know how to defend.
Kian Moran elected to point in injury time with Marys needed a goal to force extra time. John Bingham and Carroll were left free in front of goal, arms outstretched. After the final Marys attack broke down, the Dromiskin side broke down the field and sub Alan McKenna pointed.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Peter Duffy, Brendan Matthews, John Bingham, Niall Eccles, Conor Keenan, Eimhin Keenan (0-01), Kian Moran (0-02), Robbie Leavy, Ronan Carroll (0-02), Daire McConnon (0-01), Darren Clarke (0-07), Mark Fay, Dean Matthews (0-01), Alan Kirk, Jamie Rooney.
Subs: Karl Faulkner for Dean Matthews (46), Shane Carroll for Mark Fay (60)
ST JOSEPHS: Robert Samson, Cian McGuinness, Ben Mulligan, Stefan Potts, David Kerin, Killian Staunton, Alan Lynch, Philip Kinahan, Thomas Smyth, Craig Doherty (0-01), Conall Smyth (0-01), Daire Smyth (0-03), Alan Quigley (0-06), Conal O’Hanlon (0-03), Derek Mulligan (0-01).
Subs: Alan McKenna (0-01) for Stefan Potts (26), Jack Mulligan for Derek Mulligan (31)
REFEREE: Paul Finnegan Snr
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