Ardee Community School’s incredible tilt at national glory sees them take their place in the All-Ireland Senior Football ‘C’ Championship with an emphatic win over close neighbours Our Lady’s Secondary School of Castleblaney in Monaghan.
Both sides started well in the trying conditions as a feisty wind swirled around Inniskeen on Saturday afternoon and traded point for point in the opening 15 minutes, akin to two heavyweight boxers exchanging blow for blow.
Inevitably in such circumstances, one was going to land the swifter and stronger shot and on this occasion, it was the Leinster champions. Martin Duffy nicked possession in the final third and sent a slick score sailing between the posts before Ryan Burns kicked his third free of the day.
With the determined and gritty Caraher twins, Alan and James, wreaking havoc not only in attack but all over the field given how deep they dropped, the Monaghan side were struggling to find an answer as to how to contain the dogged Mattock Rangers men.
The deadly duo that is Duffy and Burns added more for ACS before the break to leave them with a deserved three point lead at the break. Curiously, Ardee remained out on the field during half time, limbering up and jogging to stay warm and within seconds of the restart, it was evident why they did so.
Castleblaney’s start was sluggish but the Ardee outfit began with fire in their boots as well as their bellies with Ryan Rooney and James Caraher pointing within the first minute before Michael Brannigan horribly sent what looked to be a routine free wide at the other end.
With this, Mark Gilsenan’s men smelled blood and they pounced. Daire McConnon won possession deep and found a willing runner in Burns on the left 50 yards ahead of him. The Hunterstown man collected and sent a delicious ball with the outside of his boot to Duffy scampering through the centre who caught before sending it spinning low into the corner of the net.
While the Ulster champions often attempted to play too many passes in front of the posts against Ardee’s well-marshalled defence, they did find a period of pressure after this goal by knocking over three without reply, two of those coming from midfielder Conor Marray.
The beginning of a revival perhaps? No. Those thoughts were immediately snuffed out with 10 minutes remaining when McConnon’s effort inside the box was met by an illegal foot block and Burns calmly tucked away the resulting penalty.
St Mary’s pair Rooney and Duffy then combined wonderfully for the latter to score before the ‘Twinny’s’ did likewise for James and with a minute remaining, Castleblaney must have thought they ended by getting the last word when Barry Kerr got forward to thump one into the back of the net.
It would not even be a real consolation though as ACS duly swept up the other end where Caraher fisted across goal where McConnon was waiting to supply a simple finish for their third goal and send them on the way to a first ever All-Ireland final.
ACS: Niall Carrie; David Carroll, Cathal Clarke, John Matthews; Brendan Matthews, Conor Keenan, Mitchell Keenan; Ryan Rooney (0-1), Ryan Ward; Evan Keenan, Martin Duffy (1-4), Daire McConnon (1-0); Ryan Burns (1-6, 4f), Alan Caraher, James Caraher (0-2). Subs: Dion Conlon for M Duffy, 58 mins; Mikey Nulty for A Caraher, 58 mins.