Muirhevnamor FC got their 2020 campaign off to a strong start away from home on Friday evening, with two goals from Marc Griffin capping a comfortable night for the Premier Division outfit against Ardee Celtic at Townparks.
Vinny Smith’s opener was just reward for a quick start by the visitors and the first of Griffin’s brace eight minutes before the break appeared to put the game beyond any reasonable doubt. That was despite Tiernan Mulvenna seeing his penalty kick saved by Celtic stopper David Anderson.
Griffin completed the scoring on 56 minutes with a low finish. Amongst a raft of second half changes, the Mor exerted almost total control in seeing the game out comfortably.
Ardee Celtic, with Paul Sharkey and David Martin on the sideline, were soundly beaten and struggled to keep up with how fast the away side moved the ball. They were quick with the ball at their feet too. It was no surprise when their opening goal came via the speedy Luke Gorham on the right wing. Twice in the first 10 minutes of the game he left Celtic defenders chasing his shadow, fast disappearing in the distance.
First, Killian Scott was forced to take him down and then – from a quick breakaway from an Ardee Celtic free kick – he forced a good stop from Anderson. When Smith’s opportunity arrived, he wasn’t in the mood to pass it up. Gorham’s cross was just out of Griffin’s reach it came through to Smith who sent a rising shot across the goalkeeper and into the net.
So fruitful was that channel for Muirhevnamor, they almost produced a carbon copy 60 seconds later. Again, Griffin stretched but failed to meet Gorham’s delivery. Smith picked it up but this time, Ken Thornton, was there to thwart him.
The missed penalty, squandered by the experienced Mulvenna, arrived on 19 minutes. Gorham again ran at the Celtic reguarded and having pierced the 18 yard box, he tumbled under Keith O’Donohue’s challenged. Paul Rooney pointed to the spot.
The ex-Dundalk and Drogheda United frontman went low to Anderson’s right but the goalkeeper read it and saved. The diminutive forward knew it was far from his best effort.
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Given their superiority however, a second goal seemed inevitable. It came after a water break and a rare foray forward from the home team. The impressive Shawni Dowdall caught his effort sweetly, the long range shot flying just over the bar. Griffin found himself with time and space to measure up Philip Duffy’s cross. He duly fired in to bring the score more in line with the balance of play. The Mor where full value.
Bar Griffin’s 56th minute strike to make it 3-0, the second half was shorn of incident and moments of genuine quality like those that had illuminated the first. The away side continued to move the ball well, but to Celtic’s credit, they competed well with Mikey Nulty an energetic presence and youngster’s Dowdall and Bryan O’Connor not found wanting for effort in the forward areas.
Niall Sharkey, a Louth GAA inter-county player, marked himself out to on an evening to forget for the Deesiders.
After a chastening season in the top tier last season, there is no lack of irony in the fact that the first game of their new season back as a First Division outfit came against one of the county’s top teams. They thought they’d seen the back of the quality-packed Dundalk side upon relegation. At least, there’ll be easier games to come.
The best of Muirhevnamor’s late chances came via Mulvenna – who by that stage was sitting deep in midfield, helping his team see the game out. That came either side of Ardee Celtic’s two best opportunities.
Dowdall cut in past two visiting defenders and shot wide. With virtually the game’s final kick, Nulty’s shot just cleared the angle of post and bar.
The Mor, winners of the Challenge Cup in the 2017/18 and the truncated 2018 campaign, are well on their way to qualifying for this year’s latter stages in a strange, league-less season.
Elsewhere on Friday night, Drogheda Town beat Bailieboro 3-2 and Rock Celtic ran out winners against Redeemer in a game that ended – remarkably – 7-3.
ARDEE CELTIC: David Anderson, Ken Thornton, Niall Sharkey, Killian Scott, Robbie Reynolds, Brendan Matthews, Mikey Nulty, Keith O’Donohue, Aaron Devlin (David Adetuyi, 71), Shawni Dowdall (Keith McCloskey, 79), Bryan O’Connor (Glen Darling, 77).
Subs: Daire O’Shea.
MUIRHEVNAMOR: Micheal Cooney, Gary Clarke (Colm Finan, 73), Brendan Hughes, Ciaran McGuigan, Keith Kearney (Padraig Hearty, 73), Philip Duffy, Thomas McShane (Michael O’Kane, 64), Luke Gorham (Brian Begley, 64), Vinny Smith (Josh Wilson, 60), Tiernan Mulvenna, Marc Grffin.
Subs: Padraig McConville, Simon Kelly.