Dundalk Gaels' Gary Shevlin and Mark Fay of St. Mary's in action this afternoon. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Dundalk Gaels 1-2 Ardee, St. Mary's 3-19
Ardee, St. Mary's collected their first points in Division One at the Ramparts on Sunday afternoon courtesy of an emphatic 23-point win over Dundalk Gaels.
Despite claiming a morale-boosting opening round victory over St. Bride's, Malachy O'Rourke's men were woefully out of sorts here. Indeed, it took last year's senior finalists fully 50 minutes to register a point - through Jason Clarke - while Niall Hearty's goal two minutes later was their first score from play.
However, credit the visitors whose blend of youth and experience clicked to devastating levels. Their experienced forward trio of Ronan Carroll (0-5), Darren Clarke (1-3) and Mark Fay (0-5) - who was especially impressive - registered all but six of the Deesiders' points, while Éimhín Keenan and Conor Gillespie found the net either side of half-time.
In front of Louth manager Pete McGrath, Fay and centre-half Karl Faulkner certainly caught the Mourne man's eye, though, on the other hand, one of his established county panel members, Gerard McSorley, did little to enhance his prospects of starting in next month's Leinster Championship opener following his second-half black card.
But to single out McSorley would be wrong as he received a distinct lack of assistance from his team-mates. Indeed, as the Gaels' frustration levels grew, the match became increasingly niggly with referee Patsy Connolly not helped in his efforts to keep order.
Trailing 2-8 to no-score at half-time, the Gaels were faced with an unassailable disadvantage and St. Mary's showed no let-up, converting a further 1-8 before Malachy O'Rourke's men got themselves off the mark.
Early on, Carroll, Fay, Gillespie and Paudy Clarke fired over minors before Darren Clarke was on hand to dispatch to the net after Gaels 'keeper Joe O'Donoghue had denied Gillespie.
The hosts struck six first-half wides with the aid of the breeze, while McSorley saw a glorious goal chance saved by Alan McGauley - one of four of last year's Louth minors on the Ardee select. But, even if they had to have converted a selection of those openings, they would have struggled to contain the winners whose second goal was well-taken by county panellist Keenan.
And another of the 2017 Leinster minor final team, Liam Jackson finished off the score of the match on 47 minutes, fisting over at the end of a flowing move.
Gaels' first score drew a sarcastic cheer from the bank before they again found their voice when Hearty trickled the ball to the net after Jason Clarke's free had struck the post and fortunately landed in the square man's hands.
Though, after Jordan Keating had added another point for Gaels, how fitting it was that Man of the Match Fay landed the final two minors - both frees - as the winning margin was bridged yet further.
Twelve months ago, Gaels shipped a 16-point home defeat to Clan na Gael before going on a run to finish second in the table. They will surely be hoping for a similar turnaround and for Derek Crilly's prompt return to action.
Meanwhile, last season's table toppers, St. Mary's, look serious contenders for honours once again.
Dundalk Gaels: Joe O'Donoghue; David McComish, Jamie Faulkner, Conor Morgan; Óisín Murray, James Stewart, David Moloney; Seán Murray, Seán McCann; Gerard McSorley, Jason Clarke (0-1, free), Barry Watters; Éanna McArdle, Niall Hearty (1-0), Chris Sweeney
Subs: Gary Shevlin for Sweeney (9), Dáire O'Callaghan for Morgan (25), Pádraig Fallon for McArdle (HT), Jordan Keating (0-1) for McSorley (40, black card)
Ardee, St. Mary's: Alan McGauley; Brendan Matthews, Philip Trainor, Donal McKenny; Liam Jackson (0-1), Karl Faulkner, Kian Moran (0-2); Éimhín Keenan (1-0), Mark Leavy (0-1); Paudy Clarke (0-1), Ronan Carroll (0-5), Dáire McConnon; Mark Fay (0-5, two frees), Conor Gillespie (1-1), Darren Clarke (1-3, 0-1 free)
Subs: Alan Kirk for Paudy Clarke (24), Wayne Matthews for Brendan Matthews (HT), RJ Callaghan for Gillespie (46), Joe Mulholland for Leavy (49), Jamie Rooney for Darren Clarke (50), Robbie Keenan for Carroll (53)
Referee: Patsy Connolly (St. Mochta's)
This Tuesday, April 17th, the Dundalk Democrat hits newsstands across Louth with a brand new look - refreshed and redesigned as a newspaper for a modern Dundalk. Keep an eye out for the brand new Dundalk Democrat - Dundalk and Proud 24/7.