Ardee St Marys ended their Championship interest for the year and in doing so secured their place in the 2018 Senior Football edition as they beat Cooley Kickhams 1-12 to 0-10 in their relegation playoff semi-final in Castlebellingham on Sunday afternoon.
Brendan Matthews’ second half goal helped the Marys surge away from their opponents at The Grove. The match ended in farce as five players were dismissed in injury time after a melee that involved the vast majority of the 30 players on the field. Niall Eccles and Dean Matthews were shown straight reds while Alan Kirk received a second yellow too. The interruption lasted long after the official brandished the cards. It was a nonsense by the end.
An even enough contest throughout, it was only late on that the Blues pulled away from Cooley and made safe their senior status at the end of a disappointing campaign. Sub Kirk hit two scores to end Cooley hopes of a comeback.
There was no place in the starting XV for Kirk or Dean Mathews, with the returning Paudy Clarke taking his place in the full forward line and Karl Faulkner also earning a first Championship start of the campaign.
The Marys efforts against the Joes in last week’s play-off were undermined by wastefulnes in front of the posts. 14 in total in Dunleer meant the Dromiskin side squeaked into the knockout stages. Here, a first half tally of seven suggested more trouble could be on the way unless the Blues started finding the posts.
Mark Fay’s quickfire double just before the break sent the teams in level and from that moment on, the Marys never trailed.
Points from Ronan Carroll and Darren Clarke had the Marys in front within ten minutes after Brian White’s opener. Ciaran Sheelan and Michael Rafferty turned in back in Cooley’s favour – but not after the Ardee side were guilty of hitting a host of wides as they failed to turn possession and forward intent into scores.
Paudy Clarke and Kian Moran failed to convert while Darren Clarke was not enjoying his day. He hit five first half wides before his half time withdrawal. Carroll and Sheelan swapped point before Mark Fay notched twice in less than 60 seconds, the first after good work from captain John Bingham, to leave it 0-05 to 0-05 at the break.
Half time replacement Dean Mathews made the most of his introduction, scoring a free and from play within four minutes of his arrival into the fray. Sheelan and Fergal Malone levelled things before Carroll scored a nice point and Jake McShane replied.
The Marys goal – their first of the Championship in 2017 – came on 40 minutes and via an unlikely source. It fell on Brendan Matthews to beat Neil Gallagher with a low shot from close range. It was a cool finish that left the Kickhams with much to do.
Matthews then pointed after being receiving a pass from namesake Dean. Despite Robbie Leavy’s black card, his midfield partner Carroll arrowed his fourth of the game over to make it 1-10 to 0-08.
Fergal Malone and Richard Brennan reduced the deficit with well taken points but substitute Kirk put daylight between the sides with one each from play and dead ball. There was also a first Championship appearance for Louth minor star Conor Gillespie. He entered the fray with minutes remaining and won a key free kick as the Marys made absolute sure.
There was a lengthy delay in stoppage time as both sides decided to get acquainted but it was only delaying the inevitable. Niall Eccles, Alan Kirk and Dean Mathews were all shown red cards as were Cooley duo 13 and 23 too. Ten minutes in total were added.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Peter Duffy, Brendan Matthews (1-01), John Bingham, Karl Faulkner, Barry McCoy, Conor Keenan, Eimhin Keenan, Niall Eccles, Robbie Leavy, Ronan Carroll (0-04), Mark Fay (0-02), Kian Moran, Daire McConnon, Darren Clarke (0-01), Paudy Clarke.
Subs: Dean Mathews (0-02) for Darren Clarke (31), Alan Kirk (0-02) for Robbie Leavy (50, BC), Conor Gillespie for Mark Fay (57)
COOLEY KICKHAMS: Neil Gallagher, Shane Marks, Jake McShane (0-01), Keith White, Eoin McDaid, Alan Page, Gerry Malone, Peter Thornton, Fergal Malone (0-02), Conor McGuinness, Michael Rafferty (0-01), Richard Brennan (0-01), Patrick Hanlon, Brian White (0-01), Ciaran Sheelin (0-04).