A 13-minute goal blitz either side of half time saw Ardee St Marys push past Mattock Rangers and into the quarter finals of the Senior Football Championship, where they will face the Geraldines for a place in the last four of the competition.
Sean Barry’s team never looked in serious danger of relinquishing their grip on a knockout place after their goal glut, courtesy of Conor Gillespie, Daire McConnon, Darren Clarke and Ronan Carroll. Despite a bright start to the game, the side from Collon were never able to claw their way back into a match lost by defensive lapses that were capitalised on in clinical fashion.
The ever reliable David Reid did account for 12 of Mattock’s 20 scores in the game but the goals killed off genuine hopes of securing the win last year’s Leinster Intermediate champions needed to book their place in the last eight.
Too often, the Marys worked their way through the Mattock back lines with ease. Resistance was in short supply and that rendered Mattock’s attacking threat an almost non-factor. Scoring 20 points in a senior championship game is no mean feat, but a seven point less tells you they were nowhere tight enough.
That was a surprise given how well Paddy Carr’s side had performed in narrowly losing out to reigning champions Newtown Blues two weeks ago. On reflection, that may have been their chance to register points on the board. This group, including the Blues and a coming-of-age Marys was always going to be a tough ask.
25 years on from their last Senior Football Championship title, and having appeared in only one final in the last 17 years, the Marys are no strangers to being tipped for success, only to fall short when expectations are high. They are again this year, as much so as at any point since their last final appearance in 2016.
The blend is there. Spearheaded by Darren Clarke and Ronan Carroll, two veterans of the 2003 final loss to St Patricks, and with many of the 2016 youngsters now mainstays in the side – namely McConnon and Keenan’s Conor and Eimhin, the side appear poised for another tilt at the Joe Ward Cup. Throw-in many of the young minor stars of recent years, and it’s easy to see why Ardee is so expectant. In truth, it always is.
Cathal Fleming began the scoring, pointing Donal McKenny. The sides then exchanged scores – first through Clarke and Reid and then Keenan, Ben McKenna and Clarke again, who popped over a free. Mattock had started the match in Darver brightly, moving the ball well through the lines.
Both teams had early goal chances, too. Alan McGauley denied Shane Hickey by flinging his body in front of a goal bound effort. Daire McConnon received Liam Jackson’s pass only to drive a shot wide at the other end.
Ronan Carroll then turned Sean Gilsenan and produced a super score from the right and Liam Jackson added another as the Marys began to build a sizeable lead for the first time. David Reid’s point from play reduced the deficit but seconds later Conor Gillespie began the goalscoring, receiving the ball behind the posts before slotting past Mark Lenehan.
After McConnon’s point, Mattoock hit back through Hickey, Fleming and a Reid free kicked out of his hands. No sooner had the latter of those efforts gone over, they were opened up again. McConnon benefitted this time. One of the heroes of last week’s comeback win against the Blues, he poked the ball beyond Lenehan with no challenge seemingly forthcoming. Clarke and RJ Callaghan had done the work in the build-up.
Clarke was keen to get in on the act. David Reid’s point off the post was a futile act of resistance moments before the veteran former Louth forward arrowed a shot into the net. Reid notched again but after calling his mark, the ever impressive Ciaran Keenan scored superbly and after another cheap concession in the backs, Carroll completed the first half scoring.
If the message from Paddy Carr and his team was to tighten up in defensive areas for the second period, the messaged was not heeded from the off. Within 40 seconds of the restart, Keenan had tied up Carroll for a tap in.
Credit to the Collon side, they did hit seven of the next nine scores through Aaron O’Brien, sub Ben Watters and the prolific Reid. Only two Clarke frees punctuated that spell for Mattock. Marys had a buffer but had Cathal Clarke chosen to go for goal rather than take his point when positioned well, it may have given Mattock a semblance of hope.
There was still time for Keenan to add two more scores to his personal tally and sub Paudy Clarke to register too. Watters had a sniff of a goal opportunity, but he hit wide. Reid’s two late frees ended the scoring. Liam Jackson was shown an injury time black card, leaving the Marys to finish the final moments with 14 men.
The victors will now face Geraldines in the quarter-finals on Sunday at 3pm, part of a day of back-to-back senior championship last eight clashes pencilled in for Darver next weekend. Mattock Rangers will face Dreadnots in their relegation playoff in two weeks time.
ARDEE ST MARYS: Alan McGauley, Tom Jackson (Jay Crawley, 36), Karl Faulkner, Conor Keenan, Niall Eccles (Jonathan Commins, 56), Donal McKenny, Eimhin Keenan, RJ Callaghan (Robbie Leavy, 33), Liam Jackson, Conor Gillespie (Paudy Clarke 52), Ciaran Keenan, Kian Moran, Daire McConnon, Ronan Carroll, Darren Clarke (Mark Fay, 56).
MATTOCK RANGERS: Mark Lenehan, Alan Caraher, Sean Gilsenan, Daire Englishby, Brendan Leacy (Cathal Clarke, 36), Ben McKenna, Michael McKeown (Terry Donegan, 16), Adrian Reid, Daniel Bannon (Ben Watters, 52), Shane Maguire, Aaron O’Brien, Shane Hickey, Cathal Fleming, Ryan Leneghan, David Reid.
REFEREE: Paul Kneel