Ardee Celtic suffered a fourth defeat in five North East Premier Division games as they went down 0-1 to Quay Celtic on Friday night at Clancy Park in Dundalk, a result which leaves them just a point off the foot of table alebit with games in hand.
A second half goal from Vinny Smith proved the difference between the teams but Celtic will rue chances missed. Ross Gaynor saw a free kick smack off the crossbar and Mikey Nulty and Stuart Osbourne were both denied at close range by Quay goalkeeper John Rogers.
As we approach mid-December, it’s remarkable that Ardee Celtic took to the field at Clancy Park for just their fifth league outing of the campaign. It’s testament to their form across four cup competitions that league committments had to take a back seat until now.
Until Sunday’s extra time defeat to Clonmel Town in the last 64 of the FAI Junior Cup, Celtic had gone eight cup matches unbeaten in 2017/18. They remain in contention on three fronts but with a strong squad at their disposal, Conor Lynch and John Flanagan are known to be keen to show how their side can mix it with the Premier Division elite.
That strong panel was depleted somewhat on Friday as James McMullen was missing. He picked up a muscle injury against Collinstown a number of weeks ago in Dublin and he joined Gareth Kane (suspended) and Paul Matondo (unavailable) among those missing. The Font were looking to drag themselves away from the bottom two with a win but now must regroup ahead of a cup clash with hot favourites Usher Celtic.
In four games before tonight, they had only an away win over Boyne Harps to their name and that remains the case. To their credit were one goal defeats in hard fought encounters versus Trim Celtic and OMP United, while Muirhevna Mor showed their class with a resounding 3-0 win at Townspark last month.
The Ardee side had faced Quay Celtic already this season. Their previous trip to Clancy Park was in the season opener, a 1-1 draw in the Kilmessan Shield. Of the starting XI that began that day, only Ken Thornton, Lorcan Myles, Stuart Osbourne and Darryn Gaynor remained here.
Ross Gaynor wasn’t on the Ardee Celtic books for that meeting but he had the first chance of the match. After midfielder Stuart Osbourne was fouled, he curled a free kick into John Rogers’ midriff. Soon after, he found his brother Darryn who’s drilled shot was saved.
Danny Coyle, a recent signing from Boyne Harps, shot harmlessly wide after some Ardee slopiness. Smith was next to go close, shooting across goal and wide after a superb touch to take long a goal kick punt forward. As an even enough first half reached the 30 minute mark, the visitors had a clear cut chance to make it 1-0.
Ross Gaynor made progress down the left and while his cross evaded brother Darryn, it came to Mikey Nulty at the back post. The midfielder took a touch but didn’t seem to get the necessary purchase on his shot. It was saved by Rogers.
Minutes later, the former Linfield, Sligo Rovers and Cork City star won a free kick on the edge of the area. He smacked the crossbar with the resultant effort. As was the case against OMP and Trim Celtic this term, lessons were being learned that cheap mistakes and a failure to take chances at Premier Division level cost.
Conor Lynch’s team denied Quay an opener on the hour mark as Robbie Reynolds was well positioned after Smith beat Ken Thornton by cutting inside in the area. The left full back was on hand to clear his shot off the line. Quay soon had the lead goal.
After sub Ciaran Clarke and Reynolds left Niall Sharkey’s pass to eachother, former Ardee Celtic man Shaun O’Connor took advantage. He advanced and found Smith, who produced a low left foot shot that beat Stuary Reynolds in the Ardee goal.
Osbourne had a half chance as Celtic rallied on a bitterly cold evening but it ended with nothing to warm the hearts of the travelling Ardee faithful. Ross Gaynor latched onto a neat Osbourne ball over the top but Rogers saved his effort whilst Darryn Gaynor also had a chance and Niall Sharkey, impressive again, saw a late header float wide.
Ardee Celtic won’t be able to add to their three point tally in the league before 2018 arrives. Next up for them is Usher Celtic in the Leinster Junior Cup before league action resumes post-Christmas. In the meantime, they need to reflect on how precious chances are to come by – and how vital it is to take them.
ARDEE CELTIC: Stuart Reynolds, Ken Thornton (Ciaran Clarke, 64), Niall Sharkey, Oisin McGee, Robbie Reynolds, Stuart Osbourne, Daire Smyth, Ross Gaynor, Lorcan Myles, Mikey Nulty (Eddie Burke, 80), Darryn Gaynor.
Sub Not Used: Shawni Dowdall
QUAY CELTIC: John Rogers, Shaun O’Connor, Stephen Kilcoyne, Denis Cholach, Gary Shevlin, Dean Shiel, Conall McArdle. Danny Coyle, Johnny Lynch, Vinny Smith, Eanna McArdle.
Subs: Cody Magill, Niall McLaughlin, Andrew Duffy, Stefan McKevitt, David Redmond, Sean Hand.
REFEREE: Andy McNamara