John Gallagher scored two first half goals as a young Ardee Celtic third team continued their promising start to the new NEFL A Reserve season, beating local rivals Square United 4-2 at the Boys School Field today.
With no first team Ardee derby to look forward to this year, it fell on the meeting of United’s seconds and Celtic’s third team to provide the local competition in the NEFL. The Townparks men emerged victorious at the end of an accomplished performance. Gallagher’s two goals came in the space of six first half minutes.
Evan Farrell halved the deficit before the break but Celtic skipper Shawni Dowdall and Lorcan Malone wrapped thing up. Farrell’s second in injury time was mere consolation.
Frank Dowdall’s youngsters earned promotion from the Reserve B League last season and stepping up a level in 2017/18, they’ve taken to the A grade like ducks to water. Two wins from their opening three games with nine goals scored is testament to the fact that the youngest team in the division are far from the least capable.
It’s been a rollercoaster start to the league season for their Square counterparts. Kicking off the season by coming out on the wrong end of an eight goal thriller against Albion Rovers, they then shipped seven against Hazel Lane in a chastening result on home ground. They recovered well to beat in-form Kentstown 4-0. Last week’s 5-4 win over Trim Town suggests Square – with 12 goals in four games – have the firepower to hurt any team in the division.
They scored two more against their neighbours but Ardee Celtic were largely dominant with Lorcan Malone and Aaron Roche enjoying much the better of the midfield battle throughout. Pearce Callan had the game’s first effort of note – but his low shot was easily saved by Marc Ward.
The visitors first chance came when Shane Hickey’s clipped cross was headed away by Cian Halpenny but only as far as Dylan Maher. Niall Carrie was behind his well hit volley. Gallagher headed a cross over the bar shortly after but he wasn’t to be denied.
After some fine work by Hickey on the left flank, Gallagher met his pull-back, opened his body up and finished well. The duo linked up again three minutes later. This time Gallagher won the ball and set up Hickey. His shot flashed across Carrie but outside the post.
It was 0-2 when Square fell asleep from an Ardee Celtic free just outside the area. Maher beat Dermot Caraher and chipped a ball to the back post where Gallagher met it with his head. The ball looped across the box, over a beaten Square rearguard and inside the post.
The young Font team were at this point enjoying their football. Gallagher hit a rising effort over the bar and Hickey was denied by the post in quick succession. Square’s only chance had come when Callan’s free kick was straight down the throat of Ward. On 27 minutes however, they were back in the game.
After Hickey hit the woodwork, Square went from back to front in a flash. Andy McKenny found Liam Farrell. His incisive pass was perfect for Farrell who produced a a really good finish. Before half time, Carrie was called upon to tip over Dowdall’s shot and deny Hickey twice – but the busy shotstopper could do little to stop Ardee Celtic’s third shortly after the break.
Dowdall got in and directed his shot underneath the goalkeeper to restore the youngsters’ two goal advantage. Mark Smyth and Decie O’Reilly had made a double change at the break but if they were hoping for a response, that won’t have been it.
Gallagher was unlucky to see his free kick effort go just wide shortly before he was withdrawn and moments later, young substitute Evan Malone went close with a header from a pinpoint Caraher delivery. Square did improve around the midway point of the second half but they lacked the cutting edge to make a dent into their rivals’ lead. The sprightly Malone was a bright spark for Square, however.
With just under 20 minutes to play, Lorcan Malone got himself on the scoresheet, a deserved reward for a commanding performance in the middle of the park. After Square failed to clear a Darren McMullan cross, Malone was at the back post to slot in.
Sub Bryan O’Connor probably should have done better when McMullen again produced a left wing centre while Farrell got his and Square’s second in injury time. His free kick deflected off the edge of the wall and in. Local bragging rights will lie at Townparks for now.
SQUARE UNITED: Niall Carrie, Cian Halpenny, Alan Mackin (C), Gary McKenny, Dermot Caraher, Pearce Callan (Josh Gargan, 78), Liam Farell (Evan Malone, 57), Andy McKenny (Aaron Kerley, 46), Aaron Kane (Peter Clarke, 46), Jamie McKenny (Jordan Smith, 66), Evan Farrell.
ARDEE CELTIC: Marc Ward, Pierce Hawkins, Ben McKenna, Brendan Matthews, Paul McArdle (Killian Scott, 65), Shawni Dowdall (C) (Jake Gillespie, 78), Lorcan Malone (Kian Carroll, 83), Aaron Roche, Dylan Maher, John Gallagher (Darren McMullan, 65), Shane Hickey (Bryan O’Connor, 74).
Keep an eye out on ThisIsArdee.ie over the weekend for a full gallery of images from the match.