Ardee Community School will face De La Salle Dundalk in the next round of the Louth GAA Lennon Cup this year – after a 2-20 to 1-08 win over Scoil Ui Mhuiri Dunleer secured top spot in Group C of the competition.
Ardee St Marys duo Ciaran Keenan and Conor Gillepsie were the second half goalscorers for St Cillians, with the former hitting 1-07 in addition to his 3-04 haul 48 hours earlier – in Wednesday morning’s 28 point rout of St Marys Drogheda.
The teenagers from Dunleer posted a tougher test for Ardee CS but not one they couldn’t succumb with plenty to spare. In the Mid-Louth derby, tempers did flare temporarily. Referee Noel Hand did reduce Scoil Ui Mhuiri to 14 men in the second half, foul and abusive language the charge.
As was the case on Wednesday, Dunleer took an early lead in Darver. Their two point advantage was quickly wiped out by Tristan Knowles effort from play and a Keenan free. That was as close as the Dunleer school would get to in-form Ardee.
Anthony Durnin had to make three changes to the side that started against the Marys. Goalkeeper Alan McGauley was missing, deputised by Craig Englishby. Full back Cian Taaffe was also missing, Ben Quaile replaced him – while Louth minor man Liam Jackson was replaced by Andrew Bingham in midfield.
Jackson played 80 minutes on Wednesday but an early knock picked up in that game was proved worse than initial fears. A broken cheekbone will likely keep the highly-rated youngster out of action for several weeks.
By the 15 minute mark, Ardee had built up a five point gap and by half time, it was seven. Shane Matthews was on the money with a number of right footed frees whilst his endeavour in open play was evident for all to see.
Captain Neil Kerr was a first half standout, showing good game awareness and nous on several occasions to snuff out Scoil Ui Muiri attacks. Bingham and Gillespie were also in the first half scores as it finished 0-10 to 0-03. Trevor Matthews, last year’s Flood Cup winning campaign, deserves credit here too. He is a fine prospect for Louth – and showed it again here – playing with an intelligence and discipline beyond his years.
The only black mark on another impressive showing – if one that lacked the intensity of Wednesday’s opener – was an injury to full back Jack Grimes. He was replaced by Niall Farrell.
Durnin felt his team had played as well as he had ever seen against St Marys but here, he wanted his team to keep possession of the football, using simple passes to work an opening. With movement and cleverness in abundance and willing running runners in every area of the pitch, it reaped dividend.
Kerr split the posts twice in the second half – fully deserving for his all round display – and sub Marc Ward scored well from long range. After the Dunleer goalkeeper did well to block two initial efforts, Keenan eventually forced the ball over the line and he underlined why he made the Lennon Cup selection last year with more consistent kicking from play and frees, too.
Gillespie repeated the trick minutes later as Ardee pulled away late on. He found the bottom corner of the net with a well place effort. Before their late substitutions, Keenan and Shane Matthews added more to their respective tallies. And sub Evan Malone also pointed.
By the time 14-man Dunleer mustered a late rally – a flurry of late scores that were never going to impact on the final result – the game was out of sight. It didn’t please Durnin much however. Tougher games await in the latter stages and if Ardee CS are to justify their tags as favourites, they will have to maintain the highest of standards.
ARDEE COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Craig Englishby, Jack Grimes, Cormac Rafferty, Ben Quaile, Tristan Knowles (0-01), Donal McKenny, Gavin Kirk, Neil Kerr (0-02), Andrew Bingham (0-01), Conor Gillespie (1-02), Ciaran Keenan (1-07), Cathal Fleming, Trevor Matthews, James McDonald, Shane Matthews (0-05).
Subs: Niall Farrell for Jack Grimes (30), Marc Ward (0-01) for Andrew Bingham, Evan Malone (0-01) for Gavin Kirk, Dean Burns for Cathal Fleming, Niall Clerkin for James McDonald, Aaron Hannity, Aaron Keenan.