Ardee Community School moved one step closer to Louth GAA Lennon Cup success on Monday evening as they earned their place in the semi-finals by edging out De La Salle Dundalk 1-17 to 2-10 in Darver, with Ardee St Marys forward Ciaran Keenan hitting 0-06.
Sean Sweeney’s fourth minute goal got the Ardee side off to the perfect start on a wintry afternoon at the Centre of Excellence and although De La Salle hit back, offering Anthony Durnin’s team by far their sternest challenge yet on their quest to for Lennon Cup victory, a strong finish amidst some off the ball clashes ensured the Blues progress into the last four. They last won this competition in 2013.
The Community School’s victory is all the more impressive considering a little over 24 hours earlier nine of the starting XV featured as Ardee St Marys beat Naomh Mairtin to complete a memorable league and championship double for 2017. Just a hundred yards away on the astro turf, it was back to business for the Marys contingent – with players from John Mitchels, Westerns, Mattock Rangers and Syddan completing the line-up.
After routine victories over St Marys Drogheda and Scoil Ui Mhuiri Dunleer in the group stages, there were no illusions in the Ardee camp that De La Salle were to prove much more of a match than before. So it proved. Despite Sweeney’s early goal – after good initial play from Mitchels man Trevor Matthews and a one-two with Cathal Fleming – Ciaran Keenan added a point.
But by the 15 minute mark, the Dundalk outfit showed they weren’t there to make up the numbers. They hit 1-04 without reply to opening up a four point advantage. Trevor Matthews had seen one goal opportunity denied by the DLS stopper and Conor Gillespie’s effort was blocked on the line by a full-back.
Trevor Matthews, Keenan, Shane Matthews, Jonathan Commins and Tristan Knowles – with the pick of the bunch – saw Ardee CS end the half on a high, leading 1-06 to 1-05. It could have been much more. Missing the influential Liam Jackson in midfield, it was a Westerns GFC and John Mitchels combination in midfield, Neil Kerr and Sweeney.
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Keenan and Matthews shared the opening Ardee points of the half as their lead was extended but when DLS pressed forward, Kerr – in attempting to block – could only divert a goalbound effort in. He pointed seconds later – and did so again soon later, with Keenan and Commins chipping in further scores.
With ten minutes to go and just two points in it, Cormac Rafferty was among those Ardee players who stood tall as a DLS looked to find spaces and opportunities. They did managed two points in the last five minutes but ACS outdid them. Conor Gillepsie scored the point of the game, taking in a Keenan pass, turning infield and firing over. Trevor Matthews followed suit.
In injury time, Shane Matthews put over a fine solo effort and Keenan wrapped things up at the death. By that stage, a melee featuring most of the players on the field of play had been broken up. Donal McKenny ended the game grounded after taking a heavy hit too. No action was taken.
ARDEE COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Alan McGauley, Cian Taaffe, Cormac Rafferty, Jack Grimes, Tristan Knowles (0-01), Donal McKenny, Gavin Kirk, Neil Kerr (0-02), Sean Sweeney (1-00), Jonathan Commins (0-02), Ciaran Keenan (0-06), Cathal Fleming, Shane Matthews (0-03), Conor Gillespie (0-01), Trevor Matthews (0-02).
Subs: Ben Quaile for Jack Grimes (31), Carl Gillespie for Cathal Fleming (45)