The match of the day on Sunday was the U16 Eamon Mulvenna Cup final played before a huge crowd in the last of the weekend’s six cup finals all played in Bellew Park.
Two very talented teams, Ardee Celtic and Bellurgan, served up a very entertaining game of football.
Ardee Celtic had a superb season, reaching the last 16 of the National Cup and completed the league and cup double but it was heartbreak for Bellurgan who conceded an equaliser just three minutes from full time.
The mid-Louth side were first to threaten on seven minutes when Pauric McGowan created room for himself in the penalty area but man of the match Ayo Kusigbagbe’s last ditch tackle prevented McGowan getting his shot on target.
Bellurgan came close in the 16th minute when Daniel Rice headed Jordan Loye’s free kick into the path of James Renaghan but his shot flew inches wide of the Ardee post and Mark McCabe fired over the Ardee crossbar six minutes later as Bellurgan’s work rate stared to gain dividends.
Ardee then responded with a superb effort from Alan Carragher that went the wrong side of the Bellurgan post as the game ebbed and flowed and on the half hour mark a timely block by Ardee’s Ryan Ward prevented James Renaghan from scoring.
Tommy Molloy’s free-kick early in the second half tested Sean McGeough but it was Dylan O’Hanlon who broke the deadlock for Bellurgan nine minutes after the break with a stunning free kick from 30-yards that flew into the top corner.
Bellurgan nearly went 2-0 ahead soon after when Gary Crummy’s cross was headed narrowly wide by Mark McCabe in the 17th minute and then Crummy was unlucky when he headed wide on 21 minutes.
It was then backs to the wall stuff for the Bellurgan players as Ardee applied all the pressure as they looked for a way back into the game and Pauric McGowan thought he had scored on 24 minutes but Sean McGeough produced a brilliant save to deny McGowan.
The cup looked to be heading to Bellurgan but with just three minutes left McGowan’s in-swinging corner kick was deflected off a Bellurgan player to level the game at 1-1 and force the game into extra time.
Dylan O’Hanlon went close for Bellurgan in the first period of extra time and Alan Carragher almost won it for Bellurgan but he dragged his shot wide of the Bellurgan post following his twin brother’s James precise pass.
With the deadlock unbroken the game headed for the penalty shoot-out. Ardee ‘keeper Ross McQuillan was the hero with a superb save as Ardee held their nerve to win the shoot-out but huge credit must go both sides for a classic sporting cup final.
ARDEE CELTIC: Ross McQuillan, Daryl McDonagh, Aaron McDonagh, Connor Ayson, Niall Sharkey, Tommy Molloy, Aaron O’Brien, Ryan Ward, James Carragher, Alan Carragher, Pauric McGowan, Shane Crosson, Christopher Kerr, Shane Traynor, David Anderson.
BELLURGAN: Sean McGeough, Daniel Mulligan, Emmet Rogan, Ayo Kusigbagbe, Daniel Rice, James Renaghan, Jordan Loye, Ciaran McKeown, Mark McCabe, Dylan O’Hanlon, Gary Crummy, Aiden Morgan, Patrick Hanlon, David Bothwell, Cian Duffy.