Ardee St Marys finish the Louth GAA Division 1 regular season top of the table after they saw off Sean O’Mahony’s 1-17 to 1-11 in Ardee on Saturday evening. The result, coupled with Dreadnots defeat to Dundalk Gaels, mean the Marys finish at the summit ahead of the semi-final round.
A strong first half performance in which John Bingham’s goal and good scoring contributions from the forward line put them in control. They lead by 11 at half time. The second half was less straightforward as the light left Pairc Muire but a win never seemed in doubt.
The Blues came into the game knowing that a win – coupled with defeat for Dreadnots – would leave them top of the pile going into the semi-final stage. Whilst sitting atop the tree after 11 rounds would undoubtedly boost morale in the dressing room, they could at least come into the game knowing their last four place was secure with a game to spare.
All that was left to decide was where they finished, and with things tight at the top, places one to four were all possible for the Marys.
Whilst neither team had anything of huge consequence to play for, the Marys didn’t show as much in their fast start. If you reached for a criticism in recent times – especially in the Championship – perhaps wastefulness in front of the posts would spring to mind. They were nothing if not efficient against the O’Mahonys.
Mark Fay had them in front within 29 seconds. Ronan Carroll, Jamie Rooney, Paudy Clarke, John Bingham and Fay added further scores before the Dundalk side registered their first. For Bingham’s, Clarke played in him and the captain lashed his fierce shot over.
After 12 got the visitors off the mark, the Marys hit back in style. Kian Moran picked out John Bingham with a clever pass. The full back had time and ample space to turn and fire past the goalkeeper.
The sides traded scores evenly in the final ten minutes of the half. Carroll, Eimhin Keenan and a superb effort from Rooney were shared as 14, Vinny Smith and Ben McLaughlin put over for the county champions.
LAST FOUR LINE-UP CONFIRMED
With Ardee St Marys finishing top of Division One, they will play fourth placed Naomh Mairtin in the league semi-final. The Ardee side will have home advantage. A date has yet to be fixed. Dundalk Gaels and Dreadnots will contest the other semi-final.
In the final moments of the first half, the Marys surged away from their lacklustre opponents as they turned an eight point lead into an advantage of 11. Clarke, sub Conor Gillespie and Carroll, who’s effort was tipped over the bar, notched to leave it 1-12 to 0-04.
The Marys top scorer in league action, Alan Kirk, got in on the act with a free soon after the resumption. Bingham pointed and though an O’Mahonys half back responded with the their best point of the game, Daire McConnon immediately cancelled it out.
McConnon was deployed in midfield on Saturday night with Ronan Carroll further forward. It worked well enough against a weakened O’Mahonys side. McConnon is surely a midfielder in the making.
They were certainly more in the game in the second half – but an ever increasing wide count allowed the Blues to pick them off at the other end. Despite an improved show, the Marys extended their lead.
Credit where it’s due, that was also down in part to Peter Duffy’s brave stop to deny 13 from close range and Brendan Matthews also produced a key block from the same player soon after. There was another let off when O’Mahonys were just wide of the target when going went for goal.
The final ten minutes – when the Marys 13 point lead had been cut to just six – would have been less tense had the unlucky Kirk not seen a shot crash off the bar. Rooney pointed at least.
McLaughlin was a driving force for the visitors as they chased Hugh Durrigan’s team down late on. He hit 1-04 in ten minutes of play, all from play. Stephen Fisher was a danger too. But it wasn’t enough. The Marys belatedly get their revenage – of sorts – on the Sean O’Mahonys for recent Championship disappointment.
Two games now stand between the Ardee men and a league title. They finish top of the standing, so will fancy their chances.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Peter Duffy, David Carroll, Barry McCoy, Karl Faulkner, John Bingham (1-02), Eimhin Keenan (0-01), Kian Moran, Robbie Leavy, Daire McConnon (0-01), Brendan Matthews, Ronan Carroll (0-03), Mark Fay (0-02), Alan Kirk (0-02), Paudy Clarke (0-02), Jamie Rooney (0-03).
Subs: Conor Gillespie (0-01) for Kian Moran, Ross Gaynor for Karl Faulkner, Shane Carroll for Robbie Leavy