25 Sept 2022

Ardee cruise into quarter-finals despite never getting out of first gear

RJ Callaghan Ardee St Marys

Ardee St Mary's RJ Callaghan. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)

Anchor Tours Senior Football Championship Round 2 Group 4

Ardee St Mary’s 3-14 Dundalk Gaels 1-6

Ardee St Mary’s coasted into the quarter-finals with another comfortable victory, this time over Dundalk Gaels in the Grove, one that leaves them sitting pretty at the top of Group 4.

Despite being expected to blow away their Division Two opponents, Cathal Murray’s troops only led by four at the break. However, they turned the screw in the second half, a period which felt nothing more then a challenge match at times as they breezed to a decisive 14 win.

Last year’s semi-finalists have such a great pick this year that they had the liberty of making five changes to their starting 15, yet it didn’t stop them passing the ball with ease. Each and every player that made an appearance looking extremely confident on the ball.

Daire McConnon was the target man for much of the opening half, looking lethal in the air anytime he was asked to gain possession. He also drifted deep at times, fulfilling the playmaker role and getting his team on the ball in scorable positions.

Liam Jackson and RJ Callaghan were the men called upon to turn defence into attack when the ball entered their own half of the field and it never took them long to get right back on the attack.

Ciaran Keenan, Ryan Rooney and Tom Jackson were the men befitting most from these tactics early on, a point apiece from Keenan and Jackson seeing them go two in front.

It took Ardee just eight minutes to find the net, McConnon teeing up his fellow county star Ciaran Keenan for the goal which was fisted in from close range. Two more scores followed to leave the men in their red away strip 1-4 to 0-0 ahead after 17 minutes of action.

The Gaels were doing their utmost to stay competitive, with Tomas O’Connell their target man whenever they got forward. They had notched three wides during this St Mary’s purple patch, their first score coming after 21 minutes. But to their credit it was a goal.

The direct tactics finally paid off with O’Connell getting his fist onto a high ball and managing to punch it over the keeper James McGillick.

The Gaels closed up shop for much of the second quarter and it worked a treat, as they kept many people’s favourites for the title to just a single point for the remainder of the half.

Having bagged another point themselves, via Gary Shevlin, and RJ Callaghan receiving a black card for a poor challenge just before the break, Cathal O’Hanlon would have been happy with where his team was at this stage. Even if they didn’t win, scoring difference could be the key to second place.

Unfortunately for them Ardee ran riot in the second half, keeping the Dundalk side scoreless for 17 minutes, all while they grabbed 2-4 themselves to put the tie to bed.

Evan Malone, Tom Jackson, Keenan and McConnon hit the target, but of course it was goals from Keenan and McKenny that did the real damage on 37 and 46 minutes respectively.

The hard work for Keenan's three pointer was done by Malone and Rooney, who got the ball away from defenders and the keeper, leaving it to the county star to tap home into an empty net.

McKenny's goal was a superb team effort that shows just how well this team can move the ball. McConnon, Karl Faulkner, Malone and Keenan all involved in the build up before McKenny rattled the net.

At this stage Ardee were in cruise control, the tie already won, but were still tapping over points for fun. Frees from Dylan McKeown kept the Gaels ticking over, but they might have already had one eye on a do or die clash against St Joseph’s this weekend.

Ardee St Mary’s: James McGillick; Conor Keenan, Paraic McKenny (1-1), Jay Crawley; Liam Jackson (0-1), Evan Malone (0-1), Nial Eccles; RJ Callaghan (0-1), Eimhin Keenan; Conor Gillespie, Shane Matthews, Tom Jackson (0-2); Ciaran Keenan (2-2, 0-1 free), Daire McConnon (0-3), Ryan Rooney (0-1). Subs: Karl Faulkner for Crawley (HT), Ronan Carroll for Gillespie (41), Johnathon Commins (0-2, 0-1 free) for Rooney (41), Robert Leavy for Callaghan (47), Rory Cousins for Mathews (53).

Dundalk Gaels: Michael Lambert; Paul McCrave, David McComish, Eamon Kenny; James O’Connell, James Stewart, Kyle Rafferty; Jordan Keating, Sean McCann; Luke Murray, Gary Shevlin (0-1), Andrew Curley; Jason Clarke (0-1), Tomas O’Connell (1-1), Dylan McKeown (0-3 frees). Subs: Chris Sweeney for Curley (43), Mark Hanna for Rafferty (48).

Referee: David McCardle 

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