Ardee Celtic came from 0-2 down to draw level with OMP United in the North East Football League Premier Division on Tuesday evening – but a controversial 98th minute penalty secured all three points for the side from Navan and left the Deesiders furious.
Gareth Kane and Oisin McGee’s second half goals had seen the home side recover from the two goal half time deficit and despite going close on several occasions, when substitute goalkeeper Reynolds raced off his line to deny Joe Garvey deep into injury time, referee Andy McNamara deemed the stopper did not get the ball and pointed to the spot. Dylan Doyle dispatched the penalty.
The late, late drama came at the end of frenetic, tumultuous and heated affair between two of the three sides that came up from Division 1 in 2016/17. McNamara had earlier sent off OMP striker Jamie Blake and Celtic’s McGee after an almighty melee that also saw OMP’S Ryan Murphy, already substituted, red carded.
That incident and a raft of substitutions ensured there would be plenty of added time, while it was added to further when Celtic had to replace goalkeeper Declan Butler with Reynolds late in the game. The stopper had already made a crucial save from David Bowens before the penalty incident.
It looked for all the world that the veteran player-coach touched ball before hurtling into man and McNamara left the pitch having been made aware – in no uncertain terms – what the home crowd thought of his decision. Having come back from conceding two sloppy first half goals, it was the worst way to lose a game.
The defeat marks Celtic’s second league loss of what remains a fledgling season. They’ll be back in action against Dundalk’s Muirhevnamor on Friday night, their third outing at Townspark in a week. After last Friday’s Leinster Junior Cup win over St Kevin’s Boys, Conor Lynch made just one change to his team. Eddie Burke replaced Robbie Reynolds, with Mikey Nulty dropping to right back.
OMP hit the front inside 10 minutes but before then they had gone closest. Just two minutes were on the clock when from Jimmy Boland’s free kick, Joe Garvey’s header was well saved by Butler. The opening goal is one Butler and centre back Kenneth Thornton will want to forget.
Butler came off his line as an OMP ball was pumped forward. Thornton failed to deal with it and with Butler in no man’s land, Blake nipped in and finished into an empty net. Blake toepoked just wide a minute later as Celtic struggled to settle as the inquest continued.
Influential player-coach John Flanagan departed soon after, with a serious looking injury, in what was a further blow to a shellshocked Celtic. The home side were unable to get the ball down and play in the opening stages and before the half hour mark, OMP doubled their lead. Paul Cunningham’s corner wasn’t cleared and Bowens fired into the roof of the net at the back post.
There was a riposte of sorts from Celtic before the break. The dangerous Kane forced Conor Gilsenan to tip over his dipping effort from range, while Ross Gaynor headed over from his brother Darryn’s well-hit shot and James McMullen made the goalkeeper parry away just prior to the whistle.
Their efforts paid dividends after four minutes of the second half, and it was one which rallied the team and crowd. Kane started the move and finished it. Controlling a Paul Matondo pass in midfield, he skipped past a couple of players, rode a heavy Stephen Casey in midfield before advancing and firing in, via a deflection.
Kane went close again before the equaliser, which arrived via an unlikely source. McGee, on the field having replaced Flanagan, met Ross Gaynor’s left wing free kick to sidefoot volley in. Matondo set up Ross Gaynor to shoot wide and then Darryn Gaynor stooped low to meet Myles cross. However, Gilsenan was well placed to save at the near post.
By this point, the game was started to boil over and Kane, as dangerous as he looked, has replaced by Brendan Matthews. He was a target of constant OMP attention. Andy Kearney’s shot was well saved by Butler but by this point, his struggles with a shoulder complaint were clear to see and he was soon replaced by Reynolds.
There was another let off for the Font as header went across goal and wide. The Meath men came back into the game as the clock ticked 90. But their momentum was checked, first by the goalkeeper change and then by an almighty kerfuffle. Ciaran Clarke and Blake clashed, leading the subbed Ryan Murphy to encroach back onto the field and into the melee.
He saw red, as did Blake and Celtic goalscorer McGee. Once play had resumed, Matondo went close and after a Gaynor free kick was recycled, McMullen shot over the bar. Six additional minutes had been played by the time Bowens raced away from Thornton. If it looked for all the world like a goal, Reynolds denied him with his legs.
A minute later, Reynolds and Garvey embarked on their foot race for the ball – from a good through ball. The players clashed but, surely, only after the goalkeeper diverted the ball away. McNamara pointed to spot and from 12 yards, Doyle won it for OMP. After all that had gone before, the OMP bench made sure their celebrations were heard down the touchline. It was a brutal end to the game for the home team.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler (Stuart Reynolds, 84), Mikey Nulty, Kenneth Thornton, John Flanagan (Oisin McGee, 19), Ciaran Clarke, Eddie Burke (Paul Matondo, 46), Ross Gaynor, Lorcan Myles (Wayne Reilly, 80), James McMullen, Gareth Kane (Brendan Matthews, 70), Darryn Gaynor.
OMP United: Conor Gilsenan, Oisin McGuinness, Ruaidhri O’Rourke, Joe Garvey, Dylan Doyle, Stephen Casey, Ryan Murphy, Jimmy Boland, Jamie Blake, David Bowens, Paul Cunningham.
REFEREE: Andy McNamara