Ardee Celtic claimed another big, big scalp in cup competition this season on Friday night as James McMullen’s first half goal edged out 10 man St Kevins Boys at Townparks – sending the Deesiders through to round three of the Leinster Junior Cup and dumping the 2012 cup winners out.
McMullen was involved in virtually all the big moments of this game before he left the field on 73 minutes. He looked to have been denied a second goal when referee Conor Byrne waved away strong calls for handball on the hour mark. The forward’s shot was goalbound but a St Kevins defender cleared away, surely with a raised hand.
After Eden Burke was sent off for hacking down Lorcan Myles in the eighth minute, the visitors were left with an uphill task. The visitors players and technical staff called for McMullen to be given an early for a hefty challenge on Pat Warren as tempers flared in the second half. Byrne decided a yellow was sufficient.
Despite the early red card, Celtic struggled to make their superiority count at times. They had most of the ball but were left frustrated as chances were few and far between. St Kevins were a danger too and a one goal lead comes can bring nervy moments too. That said, the away team created very little and there’s no doubt the Ardee men were deserving of their win.
St Kevin’s Boys are one of the biggest names in junior football in Ireland and are a team with considerable pedigree in this competition, winning the cup in 2012 by seeing off NEFL side Duleek 4-2 in the final. They also finished runners up in both 2011 and 2009.
However, the Dubliners arrived in Ardee having endured a trying start to their 2017/18 league campaign, losing five of their opening seven league games. After failing to win any of their opening four games in their Leinster Senior League division, they did bounce back with two victories but a 0-5 defeat to Ballyfermot United has set them back once again.
Conor Lynch made four changes from the side that trounced Kells-Blackwater 8-1 in the Challenge Cup on Sunday with Robbie Reynolds, Ciaran Clarke, Darryn Gaynor and goalkeeper Declan Butler returning to action. Butler aside, this was the same outfield XI that beat Kilmore Celtic in the FAI Junior Cup two weeks ago.
McMullen and Gareth Kane had the home side’s first chances of the night while Ross Harrison flashed a shot and Butler had to get down to deny him again minutes later.
The referee had no hestitation in brandishing red to Burke for his late and high tackle on Myles which left the impetus with the Font but there was no immediate effect. The game was in a lull before Ross Gaynor forced a save out of Gavin Browne. John Flanagan, McMullen and his brother Darryn were involved in the build-up.
Before the opener, McMullen had already gone tantalisingly close to making it 1-0. He beat the goalkeeper but Gavin McCabe superbly got back to divert his shot from directly under the bar to safely over it. Browne had to parry Gareth Kane’s well hit effort too as Celtic began to come on strong and they deserved the lead goal.
Myles hit a deep cross, or a shot perhaps, which clipped off the far post and out to McMullen. He fired in the rebound.
St Kevins’ only other chance of note in the first half came via striker Eddie Rupeira. He burst through the middle and tried to take it around the Celtic stopper but Butler’s outstretched arm denied him.
The early second half exchanges saw Celtic go close to a second not once, twice but three times. After McMullen recycled the ball to Myles wide on the right, his cross to the back post found Kane, who checked in and fired a low shot across goal and just wide. Then Myles himself hit the post before he drew another save from Browne.
It was on the hour mark that the Deesiders were denied a penalty they felt at the time could prove decisive. More good link up play between Myles and McMullen ended in the striker’s goalbound effort being blocked on the line by a retreating St Kevin’s defender. Side on, it looked as if he used his hand. Byrne decided otherwise – much to the disbelief of the home support.
The Leinster Senior League outfit offered very little going forward in the second half, with the numerical disadvantage telling. Harrison ballooned over a free kick in a rare noteworthy attack.
John Flanagan was winning every header at the back from Townspark and industrious showings from Ciaran Clarke, Mikey Nulty and sub Eddie Burke helped them over the line. Ross Gaynor twice went close in injury time and Oisin McGee also forced a save. It was a comfortable finish to another momentous night.
That’s seven cup matches played across four competitions this season for the Ardee Celtic seniors – they’ve won six and drawn the other. It’s back to the bread and butter of league action on Tuesday night against OMP.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Robbie Reynolds (Oisin McGee, 52), John Flanagan, Kenneth Thornton, Ciaran Clarke (Aaron Roche, 88), Mikey Nulty, Lorcan Myles (Paul Matondo, 62), Ross Gaynor, Gareth Kane, James McMullen (Eddie Burke, 73), Darryn Gaynor (Wayne Reilly, 77).
Sub Not Used: Bryan O’Connor, Shawni Dowdall
ST KEVINS BOYS: Gavin Browne, Jack Cunningham, Shane Downey, Gavin McCabe, Paddy Ellis (Pat Warren, 29), Jordan Farry, Cian Kennedy (Ciaran McGrath, 86), Eden Burke, Eddie Rupeira, Ross Harrison, Josh Peyton.
Subs Not Used: Darragh O’Neill, Bilal Baker
REFEREE: Conor Byrne
Photogrpahy for ThisIsArdee.ie by Adrian Crawley Photography. Keep an eye out over the weekend for a full gallery of images from the game.