Ardee St Marys’ Minors secured the Ronan Goss Cup on Sunday afternoon, beating Naomh Mairtin 2-10 to 0-14 and in doing so sealing a historic league and Championship double in the process. 2017 has been an unforgettable year for the Blues at Minor level and this success is the icing on a long awaited and well deserved cake.
The players, management, families and supporters will dine out on this tonight at least, but there’s plenty more football to come and successes to to be had for a young team with plenty of Minor football ahead of them. In Darver, they had first half goals from Carl Gillespie and Tristan Knowles – as well as a dramatic penalty save from Alan McGauley – to thank for seeing off arguably their sternest challenge of the year.
A seven point lead at half time had been cut to just two by the final whistle. The Marys were forced to defend their lead with 13 too after the dismissals of first Donal McKenny and then Conor Hennessey late on. When Eoghan Callaghan went for goal with a free five minutes into injury time, McGauley tipped over the bar and that was that.
The Martins were left to rue a sending off of their own, Jamie Winters, but in truth, 14 wides in 60 seconds put paid to any hopes they had of claiming a scalp against the Championship winners. Having been adjudged to have fouled Ryan Sands on the half hour mark, McGauley dived low to his left to deny his Louth Minor team mate Conor Morgan.
Ciaran Keenan got the scoring underway on a bitterly cold Sunday, Darver its own micro-climate. Conor Gillespie and Shane Matthews added two more from a free and play but by that stage, Naomh Mairtin had already offered a taste of what would ultimately define their day. They created opportunities in front of the post, but failed to take them.
With no Jonathan Commins, Liam Jackson or Tom Jackson involved, this was an under strength Marys XV by anyone’s admission. But those absences created opportunities for others. 12 minutes were on the clock when a Conor Gillespie claim launched an attack that involved Keenan, Knowles and Matthews. He found Carl Gillespie, who in turn found the net.
Conor Morgan got the Monasterboice side off the mark but three wides in quick succession meant they failed to make a dent in the Marys lead. Sean Healy and Jack Murphy did point but after Healy hit a free kick wide, the Blues – donning red today – raced down the field. Tristan Knowles slammed a shot past Darren Morgan and in for 2-03 to 0-03.
Cian Taaffe was black carded by referee Stephen Johnson but despite a reshuffle in the Marys backs, the Martins failed to capitalise. Matthews and Conor Gillespie pointed either side of Healy’s long ranger. The big moment of the half arrived on the stroke of half time. McGauley collided with Sands, an act Johnson saw as deliberate. Right or wrong, the goalkeeper spared his team the concession with an excellent save from Healy.
Morgan did still have time to pop a free over before the interval. A 2-05 to 0-05 lead looked good for Ardee – but you wouldn’t have guessed from the Marys sideline. An underpar performance was disguised by a whole host of missed Martins opportunities.
They hit two more soon after the restart before their range was restored. Sean Healy scored two excellent points before Thomas Clarke hit a free over from his hands. But momentum was checked by – you guessed it – more profligate shooting. The duo were both guilty of slicing wide before the Marys hit back through Conor Gillespie and Hennessy.
Despite full back Winters receiving a second yellow card after a prolonged clash with Matthews (the Marys men also got a yellow for his part), Clarke and Healy continued to chip away at the Marys lead while the Ardee midfield were overrun at times and not enjoying the kind of dominance aerially and on the ground they might be used to.
Hennessy did point again before he went off. Beating him to the sideline, McKenny got his second booking of the day for pulling back Morgan with a minute of normal time to play. It didn’t look like a yellow card offence and the Marys sideline could be forgiven for thinking Johnson’s eagerness to brandish cards would prove their undoing.
Either side of Clarke and Callaghan frees, both tipped over the bar by the Marys goalkeeper, Conor Gillespie kicked a free off the ground himself. That proved enough to keep Naomh Mairtin at bay.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Alan McGauley, Cian Taaffe, Philip Trainor, Killian Scott, Lorcan Dixon, Donal McKenny, Gavin Kirk, Joe Mulholland, Conor Hennessy (0-02), Carl Gillespie (1-00), Ciaran Keenan (0-01), Tristan Knowles (1-00), Tiarnan Corrigan, Conor Gillespie (0-04), Shane Matthews (0-03).
Subs: Andrew Bingham for Cian Taaffe (21, BC), James McDonald for Andrew Bingham (34, INJ)
NAOMH MAIRTIN: Darren Morgan, Jamie Winters, Mark Whelan, David O’Brien, Sean Faulkner, Eoghan Callaghan (0-02), Neil Holdcroft, Evan Whelan, Thomas Rooney, Jack Murphy (0-01), Sean Healy (0-05), Thomas Clarke (0-03), Ryan Sands, Conor Morgan (0-03), Tom Gray.