Ardee St. Mary's players celebrate winning the U20 Championship title at Darver on Saturday night. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
U20 Championship final
Ardee St. Mary's 4-11 St. Mochta's/St. Bride's 2-7
Ardee St. Mary’s became the first team to win the Louth U20 Championship after seeing off a gallant St. Mochta’s/St Bride’s combination at a cold Darver on Saturday night.
This victory, one which appeared likely from an early juncture, caps a hugely fruitful spell of success at underage level for many of these players, and follows their consecutive minor championship victories of 2017 and ’18.
With a strong wind advantage in the first half, Mary’s were dominant from the start and had 2-3 on the board before Mochta’s/ Bride’s registered their first score of the game, which was a well-worked goal from prospect Craig Lennon, after an excellent handpassing sequence involving Neil Thornton and the industrious Jamie Farrell.
The victors’ ’keeper, James McGillick, also produced a quick reaction save to tip Thornton’s goalbound effort over the ’bar moments later, which followed a point from Farrell to leave just four between the sides after 20 minutes, despite Marys’ superiority.
With forwards like Luke Matthews and the superb Conor Gillespie, the Deesiders looked like scoring with every attack. The Jackson brothers, Liam and Tom, were influential, too.
Early goals from the former pair set Ardee on their way and despite that little purple patch from Mochta’s/Bride’s, Gillespie rampaged through to score his second major just before the break to leave it 3-6 to 1-2 in their favour.
It acted as a shot in the arm from Mary’s and a hammer blow for Mochta’s/Bride’s. Though, the gap could have been bigger, the men in blue shooting eight wides prior to the turnaround.
To their credit, Mochta’s/Bride’s continued to battle and they scored the opening two points of the second half, through Thornton and Cormac Smyth, while McGillick had to make another fine save to deny Lennon.
Their spirit was epitomised by Ciarán McMahon, the midfielder having competed well in the middle of the field, while later causing problems when moved into the forward line.
Indeed, his physical presence helped set-up a goal for Thornton in the last minute. But the guile and class of Mary’s proved too much as they scored 1-6 from just eight shots in the second half.
The Jacksons registered white flags in the second period, while Mary’s substitute Caolan O’Callaghan put the icing on the cake with their fourth goal.
Ardee St. Mary’s: James McGillick; Jay Crawley, Padraic McKenny, Gavin Kirk; Tom Jackson (0-1), Donal McKenny, Joe Mulholland; Liam Jackson (0-1), Tristan Knowles; Carl Gillespie, Evan Malone, Ciarán Keenan (0-1); Jonathan Commins (0-2), Conor Gillespie (2-4, three frees), Luke Matthews (1-2, 0-1 free)
Subs: Conor O’Brien for Knowles (46), Caolan O’Callaghan (1-0) for Commins (53), James McDonald for Carl Gillespie (53)
St. Mochta’s/St. Bride’s: Adam Plunkett; Conor Hoey, Andrew Lennon, Owen Lennon; Darren Bailey, Bernard Laverty, Conor Garland (0-1); Ben Goss Kieran, Ciarán McMahon (0-1); Neil Thornton (1-2), Jamie Farrell (0-1), Craig Lennon (1-1); Gerry Garland, Cormac Smyth (0-1), Philip Tynan
Subs: Ross Murnaghan for Laverty (40), Nicky Browne for O Lennon (43), Cathal McElroy for Tynan (50), Christopher Marron for Bailey (54)
Referee: Anthony Briscoe (Stabannon Parnells)