An Alan Landy goal and Niall Carrie’s second half penalty save proved the difference as Hunterstown Rovers moved top of the Division 2B table and condemned Dundalk Young Irelands to a first defeat of the campaign proper. More than anything the game proved to be an opportunity for both sides to scope the other out. The bigger challenge is still to come.
With the sides set to meet on Saturday in the first round of the Championship, neither manager elected to show their full hands at Pairc Baile Fiach on a glorious Sunday evening. Both clubs fielded teams without a clutch of players who will feature next Saturday in Castlebellingham.
Hunterstown hit the front instantly, David Finn pointing straight from the throw-in, won cleanly by Jason Monaghan. Keith Brennan doubled that advantage and before the clock hit three minutes, the home team put clear daylight between the teams. Brendan Lennon picked out full-forward Landy, who smashed the ball past Louth stopper Fergal Sheekey.
Peter Dooley’s team had Lennon to thank for further extending their lead before the Young Ireland’s registered themselves. After Dermot Mone won the free, Aaron Murray dispatched it. Sheekey saw a 45 come to nothing, his counterpart Niall Carrie had sent one wide minutes earlier.
Cian O’Naraigh’s forward run ended with a superbly taken point before Jordan O’Donohue notched the second of his four point tally via a free. He repeated the trick moments before the break, moments after Brennan (pictured above) had split the posts.
Despite holding a three point advantage at the interval, Rovers made two changes in the backs for the second half, prompting a reshuffle that saw Monaghan drop into the full back line. Landy sent over a free from near the left touchline before Cian O’Donoghue hit back for the Dundalk side.
It seemed like the Young Irelands would be denied, after the umpire signalled wide but referee Stephen Murphy overruled the call, much to the delight of the travelling supporters. The sides continued to swap scores as Hunterstown struggled to shake off the DYI – sub Glen Mathews scored with his first contribution – a free from hands – before Murray slotted a simple free between the posts.
Substitute Jamie Brown had a positive impact for the Young Irelands upon his entrance to the game and when Euan Woodlock brought done Mone with 10 minutes to play, the visitors had the perfect opportunity to level the game at 1-07 apiece. Brown took responsibility but Niall Carrie won the duel – diving low to his left to save.
Glen Mathews and Jordan O’Donoghue swapped another pair of frees but as the game became disjointed in the latter stages, the Young Ireland’s failed to create the goal opportunity they needed to take something from the game. Rovers managed it well in the closing minutes, keeping possession in midfield.
HUNTERSTOWN ROVERS: Niall Carrie, Paddy Matthews, Patrick Taaffe (Richard Taaffe, 31), Euan Woodlock, Muiris O’Sullivan, Oisin McGee, Paddy Mooney (Brian Mathews, 31), Jason Monaghan, Marc Ward, David Finn (Paul Doherty, 48), Keith Brennan (Glen Mathews, 42), Brendan Lennon, Caolan McCabe, Alan Landy, Colm Murphy.
DUNDALK YOUNG IRELANDS: Fergal Sheekey (Conor Black, 42) , Cian O’Naraigh, Peter McCourt, Stephen Bellew (Alan Hanks), Ciaran Fee, Peter Nixon, Jack McCann, Kevin Keelan (Jamie Brown, 35), Sean McLoughlin, Aaron Murray (Eoin Reilly, 56), Jordan O’Donohue, Oisi McCabe, Cian O’Donohue (Caolan McCabe, 45), Sean Byrne, Dermot Mone (Ciaran Murray).