With Championship and regular season concerns out of the way, two matches stand between Ardee St Marys and Cardinal O’Donnell Cup glory. Looking for their first league win since 2002, the Marys have already beaten two of the three other semi-finalists in league action this year. After a disappointing Championship outing in 2017, they will be keen to make up for it by getting their hands on league silverware.
The Blues face Naomh Mairtin in Ardee on Saturday in the last four, hoping to reach their first Division 1 (or 1A) league final since 2002. Here’s a look back at how Hugh Durrigan’s outfit fared in the regular league campaign – where they won seven of 11 matches to finish top of the tree.
15th April 2017 – Cooley Kickhams 3-14 Ardee St Marys 3-10
After a blistering start to 2017 in the Paddy Sheelan Cup – in which they hit 6-56 in three group games – the league season started with a whimper, losing away to Cooley.
The returning management team had strong panel to choose from but they fell short against the men from the Pennisula. Darren Clarke and Alan Kirk started the season well, with 1-05 and 1-03 respectively.
23rd April 2017 – Ardee St Marys 0-13 Geraldines 1-08
Taking to the field knowing they needed to recover from the opening day defeat, the Marys shipped a third minute goal against the Geraldines. But that was as bad as it was to get for the Ardee men on home soil.
They hit back well to lead by two points at the break and the Marys retained that lead throughout. Kirk registered 0-04 with Darren Clarke adding 0-03 for himself. The Gers were reduced to 14 men in the second half – which was a help.
28th April 2017 – Ardee St Marys 0-09 Dundalk Gaels 0-08
For the second time in six days, Ardee St Marys came out on top of a close encounter at Pairc Muire. Midfielder Robbie Leavy was the man who scored the winning point with what was the last meaningful kick of the match.
The home side had more than ample opportunity to win the game with a more comfortable looking scoreline. A relatively low scoring affair, scores were swapped throughout with neither team establishing any sort of lead. Indiscipline looked like it could cost the Marys – free concessions proving costly – but Leavy proved more influential as the game wore on. Eventually, he proved the difference.
13th May 2017 – Clan Na Gael 0-08 Ardee St Marys 0-10
A third straight win left the Marys top of Division 1 after round four, sharing the summit with Saturday’s opponents Naomh Mairtin. In Dundalk, they had four-point Daire McConnon to thank, as well as goalkeeper Peter Duffy who saved a late penalty.
A strong performance from the backs restricted the home side to just three second half scores. Still, Duffy’s late stop was the difference between victory and defeat. Darren Clarke’s arm injury was the only blight as the Marys extended their bright start to the league campaign.
19th May 2017 – Ardee St Marys 1-12 St Patricks GFC 1-12
In a 12 team division, a four match unbeaten streak is nothing to be sniffed at. While the Marys winning run ended against St Pats, a stirring comeback against old foes couldn’t but warm the hearts of those in attendance of Pairc Muire.
It did because at one stage in the second half the Ardee side were seven points down. Neither side were at their strongest with county men John Bingham and Eoin O’Connor both missing for their respective sides and Clarke sporting a cast on the sideline after his arm injury.
His old Louth teammate Paddy Keenan was a key man for the Pats hitting 1-06 in total. David Carroll and Eimhin Keenan impressed for the home side but it was Kian Moran’s second half goal and a flurry of points from the Marys, including from the consistent Alan Kirk, that secured what was to be a crucial point.
20th June 2017 – Newtown Blues 2-15 Ardee St Marys 3-11
Just a point separated the Marys and the Blues in Drogheda. Eimhin Keenan’s second half sending off didn’t help efforts to edge a highly entertaining encounter in the visitors favour.
27th June 2017 – Kilkerley Emmets 1-08 Ardee St Marys 4-17
Hell hath no fury like a Marys team scorned, or so it will have felt for Kilkerley Emmets in the last round of league fixtures before the Championship got underway in mid-summer. After the narrow defeat to the Blues in Drogheda, Ryan Rooney dug out his scoring boots as the Marys blew Kilkerley away.
A soccer player of considerable renown, full-forward Rooney showed he is just as adept at finding a route to goal in this code too. There was just one point between the teams at the the break before Rooney scored all four of his team’s goals upon the resumption. The 18 point victory did wonders for the Blues points difference, had they needed that cushion come the business end.
20th July 2017 – Ardee St Marys 2-15 Mattock Rangers 1-14
This game saw the Marys move to within one point of the league summit. It ended an indifferent spell that included one win in three league games and that instantly forgettable Championship campaign.
A Mid-Louth derby, this game caught the imagination and a good crowd travelled from Collon to watch. Village against town always makes for a spiky encounter and this was no different. But the teams – at this stage at least – were having very different league seasons.
The Blues were able to call on Daire McConnon who was superb throughout and Keenan’s Eimhin and Conor caught the eye in what was a big win. Mattock, remember, had plenty to play for.
26th July 2017 – Ardee St Marys 3-17 Naomh Mairtin 2-15
In the space of six days, any doubts over the credibility of the Marys bid for Cardinal O’Donnell success – or even qualification – were put to bed. The Blues followed up their win over Mattock Rangers with a five point victory against Saturday’s opponents – Naomh Mairtin.
The first of three devilishly tough looking fixtures to end the league regular season, Hugh Durrigan’s team hit three goals in the first half and although their 11 point lead was eaten into as Naomh Mairtin ended well, the lead was more than sufficient in the end. Kirk’s 1-04 cemented his place atop the scoring charts. Bingham and Leavy added their own emphatic finishes.
27th August 2017 – Dreadnots 3-09 Ardee St Marys 1-11
These two sides could meet in a Cardinal O’Donnell Cup decider soon enough but it was the men from the seaside who came out on top when the teams met three weeks ago.
Results on the final day meant the Marys leapfrogged the Dreadnots to finish top anyway. This game, where minor star Conor Gillespie was given a first senior league start, saw eight Marys players notch scores. However, it wasn’t enough to stop a third league loss of the year.
2nd September 2017 – Ardee St Marys 1-17 Sean O’Mahonys 1-11
Other results had the power to influence where Ardee St Marys would finish after 11 games but a win against an – admittedly weakened – Sean O’Mahonys ensured the Marys had secured a second place finish in the league.
Any game in the semi-final stage would provide a stern test so perhaps the final position within the top four isn’t all that important. This was a useful exercise nonetheless – a strong first half show followed by a not so straightforward second half.
John Bingham hit 1-02 from half back and five of the six Marys forward scored at least 0-02, totalling 0-12. Even as a confidence builder, this win will have done the trick.
MARYS TOP LEAGUE SCORERS 2017
- Alan Kirk – 4-34
- Ronan Carroll – 1-23
- Daire McConnon – 0-17
- Darren Clarke – 1-11
- Robbie Leavy – 3-04, Mark Fay – 1-10