Ardee St Marys made it two wins from two ahead of the start of the Championship campaign next week as goals in either half from Daire McConnon and Conor Gillespie helped put Sean Barry’s side top of the Division 1B.
Young goalkeeper Alan McGauley is also due credit for his significant part in the victory. Despite trailing by seven points at the break, the team from Monasterboice rallied in the second half and hit four points without reply before McGauley blocked a goalbound effort from sub JP Rooney.
Had that rippled the net, the Marys may have found the visitors’ momentum difficult to quell. That hypothetical question was rendered irrelevant moments after Rooney’s chance. Gillespie received Darren Clarke’s pass and smashed the ball past county keeper Craig Lynch.
While Rooney was denied at one end, Marys’ own veteran Clarke showed unerring accuracy at the other. His total haul of 0-08, seven dead ball strikes and one from open play, confirmed he has lost none of his ability to find the split the posts with his trusty right boot.
The home team, playing in change strip red despite being on home soil, began as they meant to go on. From the throw-in, McConnon advanced to slot over. Clarke and the impressive Ciaran Keenan notched too. The duo formed something of a double act throughout, the latter winning the frees, and Clarke taking on the responsibility to dispatch.
Eoghan Callaghan, operating in the half-forward line from the start, saw his effort fall just over the bar to get Naomh Mairtin off the mark and moments later Sam Mulroy pointed after a driving run from Conor Whelan. Another Clarke free and a Gillespie point restored the Marys’ three point lead before the net bulged.
It was something of a solo effort from McConnon, the corner forward taking a detour around two Mairtins’ backs before shooting past Lynch. Clarke again took advantage from a free opportunity and then RJ Callaghan fisted over from a tight angle. By that stage, Callaghan had been drafted into the half back line to keep tabs on Keenan, a player he will be all too familiar with from their time together in the minor setup. Fergal Reel had also introduced two subs, by the 25 minute mark.
The visitors started to draw some fouls of their own inside the Marys 20 metre line, and Mulroy made no mistake with the chances he was offered. He took his tally to 0-04 by half time, and although the Mairtins faced a 0-07 deficit at the break they were at least still in the game.
The Marys were not wholly dominant, but certainly playing better football and displaying an efficiency in front of goal. McConnon could have netted again but when through down the left channel, he chose to take his point.
The sides exchanged scores at the outset of the second half in front of a socially distanced crowd at Pairc Muire but Naomh Mairtin built momentum and hopes of a comeback with four scores in a seven minute. Two from Conor Whelan and one each from Stephen Campbell and Mulroy made it a three point game.
It fell to Clarke to quell the comeback and he did so with a free off the ground from close range. Two more points from the away team drew the Marys in further but Clarke found Gillespie who smashed in at the midway point of the second half. The goal deflated Naomh Mairtin and buoyed the Marys who saw Keenan and Paudy Clarke extend their lead further.
Clarke had been on the field a matter of seconds before he ran onto Keenan’s short pass, burst past a defender and split the posts. Mulroy added three more scores, while JP Rooney fisted over after a Mulroy effort dropped onto the bar, just beyond the Ardee goalkeeper’s fingertips.
Clarke scored a 45 to seal the deal for the Marys while Mulroy missed one for the team from Monasterboice late on. In injury time, there was time for John Clutterbuck to be given his marching orders by referee Colm McCullough of Naomh Fionnbarra after a clash with Donal McKenny that saw both players tangle with eachother for a lengthy period of time before they were eventually separated.
The Marys will be buoyed by their two-win opening salvo to the post-lockdown season and now have a weekend off next week as they await Mattock Rangers and Newtown Blues to open Group 4 in the Senior Championship on Sunday. Naomh Mairtin will also have a watching brief next weekend, as St Mochtas and Dreadnots meet in the three-team Group 2 in Dunleer on Sunday.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Alan McGauley, Tom Jackson, Karl Faulkner, Conor Keelan, Niall Eccles (Paudy Clarke, 52), Donal McKenny, Eimhin Keenan, RJ Callaghan (Robbie Leavy, 40), Liam Jackson, Conor Gillespie (Carl Gillespie, 58), Ciaran Keenan, Kian Moran (Jay Crawley, 56), Daire McConnon, Ronan Carroll, Darren Clarke.
Subs Not Used: Mark Fay, James McGillick, Joe Mulholland, Barry McCoy, Jonathan Commins, Tiernan Corrigan, Jamie Rooney, Evan Malone, Cian Commins.
NAOMH MAIRTIN: Craig Lynch, Mark Whelan, Mick Fanning, Conor Healy (Paul Berrill, 50), John Clutterbuck, Thomas Sullivan, Conor Morgan, Val Leddy, Evan Whelan, Jack Murphy (Tom Gray, 37), Eoghan Callaghan, Stephen Campbell, Sam Mulroy, Wayne Campbell (Sean Healy, 31), Conor Whelan.
Subs Also On: JP Rooney, Gavin Mooney.