Ardee Celtic are one step further along on the road to the Aviva tonight after they defied the odds to see off AUL side Kilmore Celtic 3-1 at a wet and windy Townparks, with brothers Darryn and Ross Gaynor scoring either side of John Flanagan’s first half effort.
After the postponement of last week’s Leinster Junior Cup tie against St Kevins Boys, even the heavy winds and driving rain hitting the north east as a precursor to Storm Brian were unlikely to stop the Deesiders taking to the field for this cup clash. Their fourth cup or shield outing of the campaign, Celtic have now played twice as many matches outside of league competition than in the NEFL Premier Division itself.
On his return to his boyhood club, Ross Gaynor was handed a first team debut by manager Conor Lynch – having started and scored for the second team last Saturday. He joined Mikey Nulty in midfield, with brother Darryn leading the line-up front. Robert Samson started between the strickers for the Deesiders.
Kilmore arrived in Ardee having started the season in fine fashion in the AUL Division One. With two wins and two draws from their opening four games, they have acquitted themselves well after jumping two two grades in a summer reshuffle of the league system. Only perennial FAI Junior Cup chasers Sheriif YC and Usher Celtic sit above Willie Henry’s North Dublin outfit in the table.
The visitors, known to fans as the Crunchers, weren’t exactly thrilled with the playing conditions but on a historic night for the club – the main pitch being used under lights for the first time – the surface at Townparks held up well enough throughout the 90 minutes. Both teams had to adapt.
Just 55 seconds were on the clock when the home side could – and probably should – have opened the scoring. Ross Gaynor’s free from the left was headed wide by Flanagan. The returning Gaynor, captaining the side tonight, curled a free kick over before Kilmore had their first sight of goal. Centre back Shane Andrew couldn’t stretch far enough to divert a ball over the top on target.
The Ardee Celtic opener came on 19 minutes. Gareth Kane provided the lofted pass over the Kilmore defence. Darryn Gaynor’s chest control brought the ball under control and past the goalkeeper, leaving the striker with the simple task of tapping in. Moments later, the elder Gaynor drew a save from the stopper as Ardee Celtic had their tails up.
Kane flashed a right wing cross into the area but there was no team mate there to get a touch and when centre back Flanagan managed to dig out a superb cross from the right touchline, Darryn Gaynor’s header flew narrowly wide. Robbie Reynolds whipped in a free kick with minutes to spare in the first half and while the ball was destined for the top corner, Andrews was there to clear.
On the stroke of half time, Lynch’s side double their lead. Lorcan Myles delivered the corner and after Ken Thornton’s shot was blocked, the ball fell kindly to player-coach Flanagan who found the inside of the post.
With ten minutes of the restart, the Dubliners had halved the deficit. When the Font failed to clear a corner, Mark Lynch’s scuffed effort was blocked but Darren Mooney reacted quickest to beat Samson from close range. Before that the goalkeeper had rarely been trouble – bar a moment of panic in the first half when he denied Conor Brown.
William Woods and Paul Matondo replaced Lorcan Myles and James McMullen in the second half. The latter, in a committed team performance, stood out for his workrate and willingness to harass defenders at every turn. Woods headed a Ross Gaynor corner onto the bar and that was after Darryn Gaynor had blazed over after a sumptuous touch from Kane’s range-finder.
The introduction of those two players, who will both contend they should be in the team from the start, helped Celtic in the latter stages. Woods was fresh and direct while Matondo helped the home team maintain control as the game neared it’s end. With 15 minutes to play, he found the captain who ran at the full back and expertly found the bottom corner.
Kilmore had their chances, but so too did Woods who was a constant threat in his 25 minute cameo. He, Kane, the Gaynors and Matondo linked up to terrific effect at times. But Mikey Nulty and Ciaran Clarke were called on to make vital blocks and clearances at the other end. Paul McMillan’s shot just went wide of Samson’s post too.
Daryl Curley will rue not putting his foot through a chance that fell his way in the area late on but the Townparks men never looked like shipping two. It got a little fiesty in the second half. Reynolds ended up on the floor but Colin Halligan was lenient throughout. Nothing spilled over and the cup adventure continues. This is a big, big win for an improving Ardee Celtic.
ARDEE CELTIC: Robert Samson, Robbie Reynolds (Wayne Reilly, 65), Kenneth Thornton, John Flanagan, Ciaran Clarke, Mikey Nulty, Ross Gaynor, Lorcan Myles (William Woods, 65), Gareth Kane, James McMullen (Paul Matondo, 70), Darryn Gaynor.
Subs Not Used: Eddie Burke, Oisin McGee, Shawni Dowdall, Aaron Roche.
Photography for ThisIsArdee.ie by Adrian Crawley Photography.