Ardee Community School fully justified their favourites tag in the Lennon Cup final on Thursday evening in Darver, beating 2015 and 2016 winners St Josephs CBS Drogheda by 0-13 to 0-12 on the most wintery of nights at the Centre of Excellence.
Featuring players from six local clubs, the panel featured five of the young stars who helped Louth Minors to an All-Ireland quarter final in the summer, while many of the panel were part of the Ardee St Marys side who completed a historic league and Championship double in 2017. Some took time still to help the Under 16 side to a Championship final and league success too.
We followed Anthony Durnin’s team the whole way from group stage matches in October to the final under lights this week, watching them win all five games and score a stunning 15-82 in the process. Below, we look back at how they set about winning a first Lennon Cup since doing the double in 2012 and 2013.
With this team, another triumph in 2018 remains a live possibility. First, they have Leinsters to navigate post Christmas. If they keep going as they are, this panel won’t ever want their school team days to end.
GROUP C ROUND 1: Ardee CS 8-17 St Marys 0-13 – Wednesday October 25th 2017
Club committtments meant there was a delay in Ardee Community School getting their Lennon Cup campaign underway, but when they did take to the field they did so in style. The hit eight goals against St Marys Drogheda, en route to a 28-point win at Darver.
Anthony Durnin’s young side turned a 12 point half advantage into a mammoth 28 point victory by the end, in what turned into little more than an exercise in giving as many players in the panel some much needed game time.
Ciaran Keenan scored 3-04 en route a big win for St Cillian’s – with the match all but finished by the break.
GROUP C ROUND 2: Ardee CS 2-20 Scoil Ui Mhuiri 1-08 – Friday October 27th 2017
As expected Ardee ensured top spot in Group C and in doing so set up a quarter-final clash with De La Salle Dundalk, courtesy of this comfortable win over Mid-Louth rivals Dunleer. Due to that postponement of the opening game, this win came just 48 short hours after their first outing.
There was no sign of fatigue for the Ardee teenagers though. They did miss Liam Jackson however, who suffered an eye injury in the previous game and his Louth teammate Alan McGauley who was also absent, as was Sean Sweeney and Cian Taaffe. It mattered little, Ben Quaile, Andrew Bingham and Craig Englishby coming into the team in the backs, midfield and between the posts respectively.
Scoil Ui Mhuiri worked an early two point advantage but that was as good as it got for the them. Captain Neil Kerr impressed on the day, as did Shane Matthews whose pace and directness caused the Dunleer back line a host of issues.
Conor Gillespie and Ciaran Keenan hit the goals as they hit 1-02 and 1-07 respectively.
Ardee CS Lennon Cup Top Scorers
- Ciaran Keenan – 5-23
- Shane Matthews – 1-13
- Conor Gillespie – 3-06
- Jonathan Commins – 1-11
- Neil Kerr – 1-05
- Andrew Bingham 2-01, Trevor Matthews – 0-07
QUARTER FINAL: Ardee CS 1-17 De La Salle Dundalk 2-10 – Monday November 13th 2017
Unlike the previous two outings for Ardee Community School, this evening throw-in provided a stern test for Ardee, providing the players with a chance to show they had the mettle as well as the talent to go one further that the school’s teams in the previous three years.
Sean Sweeney’s fourth minute goal suggested that St Cillian’s might enjoy another comfortable encounter but it wasn’t to be, the Dundalk team pushed them all the way.
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.
De La Salle hit back from their early set back and held a four point lead in the first half. Five unanswered scores saw Ardee lead at the break and on they pressed from that. Keenan top scored with 0-06 while Cormac Rafferty and Donal McKenny impressed at centre full and half back as Ardee had to stand tall late on.
SEMI FINAL: Ardee CS 4-15 Bush Post Primary 2-05 – Monday November 27th 2017
With St Josephs CBS awaiting in the final, Ardee CS claimed their place in the final with a 4-15 to 2-05 win over Bush PP in the last four. Even the late flurry from their opponents as they hit 2-03 late on, only served to put a small semblance of respectability to the scoreline.
Ardee CS – Lennon Cup victories
- 1970 – De La Salle, Ardee
- 2012 – Ardee Community School
- 2013 – Ardee Community School
- 2017 – Ardee Community School
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. This was as one-sided a game as you will ever see.
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. And big wins also allowed Durnin to give his entire panel a run out too. He made 13 changes as this game wore on.
As it finished, Ardee ensured for the third time in four Lennon Cup outings, they won by a 15 point margin or more.
FINAL: Ardee CS 0-13 St Josephs CBS 1-09 – Thursday December 8th 2017
On a freezing cold night in Darver – not that much of a rarity but even colder than usual – Ardee CS won the Lennon Cup 2017 in the most dramatic circumstances. Down by three points at the break, this game swung one way then the other in the second half.
Substitute Carl Gillespie contributed two point points, cooly slotted over with his left peg, to ensure Ardee got over the line against physical and fast opponents from Drogheda – who in Ryan Walsh and Daire Nally, had players who were unerringly efficient in front of the posts.
Tristan Knowles and Ciaran Keenan were the top performers on the night. A last gasp ball went awry in the Ardee backline, tantalising close to the goal line and one that almost ended Lennon Cup dreams but it drifted across and wide. Phew.
Players such as Conor Gillespie, Shane Matthews and goalkeeper McGauley won’t be around next year to go again. They can reflect on a job well done. An All-Star award would be a cherry on top of the fulsome dessert.
Lennon Cup Fact
Thursday’s defeated finalists, St Josephs CBS Drogheda, had won the Lennon Cup six times in the past – including in both 2015 and 2016.
Ardee CS – Lennon Cup All-Stars
- 2010 – Robert McCabe (St Marys)
- 2011 – None
- 2012 – Emmett Duffy (Sean McDermotts), Kevin Traynor (Syddan), Ryan Burns (Hunterstown Rovers)
- 2013 – Conor Keenan (St Marys), Kevin Traynor (Syddan), Ryan Burns (Hunterstown Rovers), Ryan Rooney (St Marys)
- 2014 – Niall Carrie (Hunterstown Rovers), Ryan Ward (Hunterstown Rovers), James Carragher (Mattock Rangers), Daire McConnon (St Marys)
- 2015 – David Cluskey (Stabannon Parnells)
- 2016 – Conor Gillespie (St Marys), Ciaran Keenan (St Marys)