Ardee St Marys will face the Geraldines or Naomh Mairtin in the Louth GAA Minor A Championship final after the Blues rallied to overturn a five point second half deficit and beat Cooley Kickhams 2-12 to 1-09 in Darver tonight.
Liam Jackson’s penalty with 12 minutes to play of normal time got the Marys comeback underway and when Shane Matthews pointed in the last minute of normal time, the Ardee side were in front. Sub Andrew Bingham sprang from the bench to hit 1-01 in time added on as Cooley let the game slip away from them. The Marys happily took advantage.
Coming off the back of last Friday’s 39 point win over Dundalk Gaels in Ardee, the Marys knew a sterner test would await them in the form of the side from the peninsula in Darver. The Marys could name an unchanged starting XV against Kickhams, who reached the last four courtesy of 3-11 to 2-05 win over St Fechins a week ago.
With two games under their belt in the Championship, full-forwards Shane Matthews and Conor Gillepsie are the Blues’ top scorers in the campaign to date with 2-09 and 3-04 respectively. The duo would prove key again in Darver but Cooley started the better. They were on the front foot from the off but hit three wides in quick succession before their fifth minute opener.
Jackson and Jonathan Commins couldn’t find the posts either but Carl Gillespie did to level the game and then after a good exchange between Matthews and Conor Gillespie, Ciaran Keenan hooked one over the bar. Donal McKenny started a fine move upfield which was finished by Carl Gillespie and then Keenan was allowed to cut through the Kickhams back line to make it 0-04 to 0-01.
Conor Gillespie’s well taken point extended that lead. But Joseph Quinn scored two, one from a free, in reply and Cooley got two more, with Jack Hughes in the points also. Commins missed a 45 but hit his first point seconds later and then Keenan split the posts to make it 0-07 to 0-05.
Kickhams scored again to leave one point in it at half time but the Marys lost half back Tom Jackson to injury and were denied a goal when Matthews forced a fine save from Brendan O’Hagan. Commins was also involved in a collision with Jake McShane, but the in-form half forward continued on.
Cooley – who had also seen off St Pats and the Geraldines en route to topping their group – began the second half much like the first, with the Marys struggling to keep pace and force errors. This time however, they were finding the target and they soon established a lead. Louth minor star Fearghal Malone scored a point before McShane found the bottom corner of Alan McGauley’s net.
Moments later, the Kickhams smacked the crossbar. Captain Philip Trainor was forced into making a vital interception with the net under threat again. Malone was growing more influential it seemed but even after Quinn missed a presentable free, superb efforts from Joe Mee and Malone left the scores at 1-09 to 0-07 with 18 minutes to play.
Six of the Marys starters were members of the Louth minor set-up that made dramatic comebacks their signature in the spring and summer and two of those players sparked the revival. Conor Gillespie’s free was the Marys first score in almost 20 minutes of play and seconds later he was involved when referee Des McDonald awarded a penalty.
Jackson found the net with his first effort but when ordered to take it again, he repeated the trick. 1-09 to 1-08. Another Gillespie free had the Marys level and with 29 minutes on the clock, Shane Matthews produced a timely first score of the game from him, hitting an excellent free from wide left as true as you’d like.
The Blues won the kickout and sub Bingham turned and hit over in injury time. Trainor set the Marys on their way to another with an interception soon after. Matthews, Keenan and Bingham were all involved before O’Hagen turned Tristan Knowles effort over the bar. There was still time for sub Bingham to score his team’s second goal too. That was before an almighty scuffle ensued at the death. Matthews was involved, and clearly unhappy but he was urged to keep his head. The job was done.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Alan McGauley, Cian Taaffe, Philip Trainor, Killian Scott, Tom Jackson, Donal McKenny, Gavin Kirk, Liam Jackson (1-00), Conor Hennessey, Carl Gillespie (0-02), Ciaran Keenan (0-02), Jonathan Commins (0-02), Tiarnan Corrigan, Conor Gillespie (0-03), Shane Matthews (0-01).
Subs: David Conlon for Tom Jackson, Tristan Knowles for Jonathan Commins (0-01), Andrew Bingham (1-01) for David Conlon, Joe Mulholland for Donal McKenny, Lorcan Dixon for Gavin Kirk.
Don’t forget, we’ll have reaction and full gallery of images from the match on ThisIsArdee.ie over the weekend, so keep an eye out.