Ardee Community School will face St Josephs CBS Drogheda in the 2017 Lennon Cup final – after a blistering first haul of 4-10 blew Bush Post Primary away at Darver on Monday morning.
Goals in the opening 25 minutes from Jonny Commins, Ciaran Keenan, Neil Kerr and Conor Gillespie put Anthony Durnin’s young team out of sight and now they can forward to clash with St Josephs, the 2015 and 2016 winners, in the showpiece final under lights. They boys in blue ran out 4-15 to 2-05 winners.
At odds with the prestige the Lennon Cup carries, Ardee St Cillian’s players had to get changed – both before and after the game – on the bus they took to Darver. That was because all of the dressing rooms had been taken over by upwards of 200 first year pupils from around the county taking part in a blitz on an adjoining pitch.
Playing stands them in good stead but the Ardee kids could have learnt a lot from watching their seniors play on the astroturf surface. Intensity, pace and quality across the pitch – there’s a reason this group were considered among the strong favourites for 2017 success when the draw was made.
Two early Commins frees and a Keenan point, after the half forward showing good perseverance in the tackle, had Ardee CS up 0-03 to 0-02 with ten minutes on the clock. That was as close as Bush were to get. Tristan Knowles neatly popped over before the first of six goals in 45 minutes.
Commins finished a sweeping move involving Jack Grimes, Marc Ward and Shane Matthews. The latter squared for Commins who the Under 16 star, who fired in. Two minutes later, Donal McKenny started a move and Keenan ended it, with the ball again in the net.
Gillespie pointed and Commins hit a quickfire treble – from play, a free and a 45 – either side of the third St Cillian’s goal. After Commins’ hit an effort short, the Bush goalkeeper could clear only to Kerr. He advanced and was taken down. The Westerns man got up to dispatch the penalty low into the corner with his right foot.
Gillespie rounded the stopper for an Ardee fourth before the break while Keenan made it 4-09 to 0-02 and Trevor Matthews completed the first half rout with undoubtedly the point of the match. The John Mitchels youngster added to more after the break with Commins also pointing before Durnin rang the changes. He made 13 in all – only Louth goalkeeper Alan McGauley and Jack Grimes played 60 minutes.
McGauley was busier after the break. He’ll have been thankful for the opportunity to keep warm and he made two excellent saves as Bush as expected edged back into the game, if not quite contention.
Cathal Fleming was denied a goal by a splendid save, a shame given the quality of Sean Sweeney’s pass to set him up. Subs Carl Gillespie and Dean Burns got the final two scores for Ardee, in a half that Bush won 2-03 to 0-05.
The Dundalk side missed a penalty and wasted several guilt edged chances as the game wore on. They could have made things considerably more interesting. As it finished, Ardee ensured for the third time in four Lennon Cup outings, they won by a 15 point margin or more.
ARDEE COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Alan McGauley, Cian Taaffe, Cormac Rafferty, Jack Grimes, Tristan Knowles (0-01), Donal McKenny, Marc Ward, Neil Kerr (1-00), Sean Sweeney, Cathal Fleming, Ciaran Keenan (1-02), Jonathan Commins (1-06), Trevor Matthews (0-03), Conor Gillespie (1-01), Shane Matthews.
Subs: Bobby Butterly, Carl Gillespie (0-01), James McDonald (all 34), Dean Burns (0-01), Niall Clerkin, Evan Malone (all 40), Caolan O’Callaghan, Aaron Hannity, Aaron Keenan (all 46), Barry Cousins, Jake Gillespie, Andrew Rogers (all 49).