On their return to United Park, it was a very different story. Four months after Ardee Celtic were beaten by Boyne Harps to deny them a place in the North East Football League Premier Division, the Deesiders were back.
If the gulf showed that night, it didn’t this time around. A first half goal from James McMullen was added to by a second half penalty from Robbie Reynolds and a brilliant late goal from Darryn Gaynor – earning Conor Lynch’s side a 3-1 win and their first victory since their return to the top flight
In a fine team performance, they excelled against seasoned operatives in Drogheda. Even before Austin McCann’s 60th minute dismissal left Harps with ten men, Celtic were making all the running.
The heavens opened just as the whistle blew at United Park and amidst a downpour, there wasn’t much to get excited about at either end in the early exchanges. A free kick was squandered by the vistors in their only real threat on goal.
Boyne did have the only chance early on – and it was a good one tout. Alan Wilson shot wide when a Celtic touch on the edge of the area was loose. 25 minutes had elapsed when the Font first gave Alan Sweeney something to worry about. After Mathews gave the ball away in midfield, McMullen into the area. He drilled his shot across goal and wide of the far post. Six minutes later, he hit the opener.
John Flanaghan – booked minutes earlier for a challenge on Kevin Walsh – provided the pass, splitting the defence as McMullen timed his run expertly. The striker, operating out wide throughout – arced his run and was clean through. He lifted his shot over the onrushing Sweeney.
It was no fewer than Ardee Celtic deserved. This was a performance far superior to their last visit to United Park when they went down to the same opposition in a promotion relegation playoff last May. By circumstance, they have found themselves in the Premier Division now and on early evidence – despite a quick leveller – they are well capable of competing in it.
They held the lead for three minutes. Austin McCann intercepted a pass in midfield and fed Alan Wilson. He got away from Mikey Nulty and fired an unstoppable effort across Declan Butler and in.
Gaynor’s pace was causing Harps problems and the tricky McMullen excelled throughout. Full back Eoin Murdock will be happy to see the back of him.
Having started and ended the first half the better side, Celtic resumed control after the interval. Gareth Kane flashed a shot over and Sweeney needed two attempts to catch McMullen’s free from the right. Eddie Burke was an important part in winning the midfield battle.
Referee Brendan Gillespie waved a handball appeal away but the official did point to the spot just before the hour mark. Austin McCann felled a midfield runner in the area and for it, he received his second yellow card and marching orders.
Robbie Reynolds, a set piece specialist of some reknown, stepped up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way. It was hard to argue with an Ardee Celtic lead. They had a numerical advantage to go with their lead too. In truth, it showed.
There were scares. Butler was called upon to race our his goal and make a point blank save from sub Niall Levins and then full back James Traynor shot but the stopper was well behind it. Sweeney denied teenager Shane Hickey a third for Celtic but Darryn Gaynor wasn’t to be denied.
He finished things with a beauty with nine minutes to play. The striker turned Luke McDonnell inside out before finding the postage stamp. It was a beauty – and he knew it. After the decision was made to replay the Deesiders’ season opener against Bellurgan, this result makes it one win from one. A fine start.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Mikey Nulty, Kenneth Thornton John Flanaghan, Robbie Reynolds, Eddie Burke (Shane Hickey, 75), A Trialist, James McMullen (Ben McKenna, 80), A Trialist, Gareth Kane (A Trialist, 70), Darryn Gaynor.
BOYNE HARPS: Alan Sweeney, Eoin Murdock, James Traynor, Luke McDonnell, Micky Mathews, Darren McCann, Austin McCann, Tom Reilly, Carl Dowling, Alan Wilson, Kevin Walsh.