Ardee Celtic ended their run of four straight league defeats with a draw against Trim Celtic on Sunday – but while an away point against in-form Trim will be seen as a positive, it was a late header that denied them all three points having led for 80 minutes.
Just four minutes were on the clock when Celtic edged ahead on the Summerhill Road. Darryn Gaynor was the benefactor of a fortuitous ricochet. Only five minutes remained when prolific striker Darren Donohue headed in to deny the Deesiders a huge away win.
Given Trim Celtic were the side who inflicted Ardee’s first defeat of the NEFL Premier Division season back in September, Conor Lynch and his side travelled to Meath knowing they would be in for another difficult 90 minutes. Trim’s Townparks win was just one of six they managed in their opening eight games in 2017/18 – leaving them just a point and a place off leaders Boyne Harps.
So it proved, but the early stages gave the visitors much to cheer. Following his strike against Torro United in midweek, Gaynor struck once again in the game’s formative stages. He didn’t know much about his seventh of the campaign but credit to the striker for chasing down and blocking Trim goalkeeper Darren McGarry’s clearance. The ricochet beat the stopper – and the line.
Lynch was able to call upon Gareth Kane who was back from suspension – while Mikey Nulty earned a recall and alongside him Stuart Osbourne continued in central midfield.
Left back Ciaran Clarke had an effort saved soon after, his sides’ pressing causing the hosts problems. Lar Ivers had Trim’s first chance of the game – he followed it up shortly after with another. Stuart Reynolds was pressed into his first action of the game.
Paul Munnelly went closest for Trim as he saw Reynolds dive to tip his header from a corner around the post. Ross Gaynor himself went close via the head, but his effort from Clarke’s delivery was the wrong side of the upright.
Perhaps expecting a second half onslaught from Trim, any question that the Meath men were intent on wrestling the impetus from the away side were answered at half time. A double substitution saw Derek Donohue and Dean Courtney introduced, the former being the man that broke Ardee hearts in the return fixture four months ago. He would do so again.
Before his equaliser, Trim had a goal ruled out for offside and then Reynolds was forced to save. Ardee Celtic’s rearguard came close to cracking on more than one occasion, with Oisin McGee on hand to make a crucial clearance with 15 minutes to play. He and Niall Sharkey have developed a mightily impressive central defensive partnership of late – having been out of the picture at the season’s outset. But they were left powerless to stop the equaliser.
The substitutes combined to get it on 85 minutes. Courtney took the free kick and Donohue finished it for his second goal against the Font this term. It was a landmark strike for the veteran – his 150th for the club’s first team. Next up for Ardee Celtic is a home tie in the Challenge Cup as Division 3 outfit Virginia Celtic make the trip from Cavan.
Having succumbed to a strong Navan Cosmos side at this stage last year, the draw has been kinder this time around. As a league win continues to evade them (none in five now), Ardee Celtic will hope a cup run can yield much sought after success.
ARDEE CELTIC: Stuart Reynolds, Robbie Reynolds, Niall Sharkey, Oisin McGee, Ciaran Clarke, Mikey Nulty, Stuart Osbourne, Ross Gaynor, Lorcan Myles, Gareth Kane, Darryn Gaynor.
TRIM CELTIC: Darren McGarry, Ruairi Short, Daryll Kelly, Eoin O’Connor, Sean Fitzgerald, Paul Munnelly, Keith Jones, Ciaran O’Connell, James Goggins, Cillien Corcoran, Lar Ivers
Subs: Derek Donohoe (for O’Connor), Dean Courtney (for O’Connell), Luke Mahon (for Kelly), Gary Connell (for Munnelly)
Additional reporting by Paudi Wright.