O'Connells' Robert Quigley was in fine form against Dundalk Young Irelands last night. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
O'Connell's 2-16 Dundalk Young Irelands 0-11
The 11-point margin ultimately skews the competitive guise of an eventful clash of O'Connell's and Dundalk Young Irelands at The Grove on Thursday night - as the hosts went joint-top of Division Two.
Young Irelands - without as many as six regulars, including the Maguire brothers and 'keeper Fergal Sheekey - led the affair at half-time, 0-9 to seven, but only scored twice up the hill in the second half as John O'Connor's hosts maintained their unbeaten record in Castlebellingham.
Two goals in fairly quick succession - from Niall Conlon and then Seán Meehan, who was fortunate to remain on the pitch on the basis of his off-the-ball antics - killed off Young Irelands as O'Connell's went on a scoring spree, corner-back James Clerkin even coming forward to register, while Robert Quigley - the game's top-scorer with 0-7 - continued to convert from all angles.
Young Irelands' only second half points were from frees - via Jordan O'Donoghue and Dermot Mone - and spread far apart as the Dundalk side's offensive threat waned considerably, especially by comparison to how they attacked during the first 30 minutes.
With Jamie Browne and Cian O'Donoghue breaking forward from deep, Adrian O'Donoghue's side kicked some fine points and, had chances fallen more kindly, they may have found the net. Nonetheless, the impressive Peter McStravick struck two excellent efforts from distance, while Aidan Sheekey did likewise as Young Irelands managed to keep their noses in front.
This was despite O'Connell's have much of the possession. However, despite continually probing, the hosts found space at a premium and only on the rare occasions that Cian Doyle, Quigley or Conlon managed to free themselves did they appear likely to trouble the scoreboard.
But that trend altered drastically during the second half and the game was no sooner back on than they had pegged Young Irelands back, taking the lead before Conlon passed up a wonderful goal chance. Though the No.11 wasn't ruing the miss for long as he collected from Paul McKeever to drive past Shane O'Connell.
Now six in front, O'Connell's were ruthless and a breakaway move found Meehan in space, with the substitute making no mistake in rifling to the roof of the net, rubber-stamping Young Irelands' second successive league defeat.
The Bellingham men, on the other hand, are on a roll, consecutive come-from-behind wins putting them firmly in the title picture.
O’Connell's: Stuart Reynolds; Jason Carroll (0-1), Conor Byrne, James Clerkin (0-1); Stuart Osborne, Keith Ryan, Salem Rifaie; Seán Cairns, Conor McGill; Paul McKeever (0-1), Niall Conlon (1-2, 0-2 frees), Dean Stanfield (0-1); Robert Quigley (0-7, one free & one 45), Ciarán O’Brien, Cian Doyle (0-3)
Subs: Seán Meehan (1-0) for O’Brien, Emmet Byrne for Ryan, Conor Culligan for Doyle, David Hoey for Rifaie
Dundalk Young Irelands: Shane O’Connell; Stephen Bellew, Ciarán Murray, Peter McCourt; Jason Mulligan, Peter Nixon, Oisín McCabe; Seán McLoughlin, Peter McStravick (0-2, one 45); Dermot Mone (0-4, two frees), Aidan Sheekey (0-1), Jordan O’Donoghue (0-4, three frees); Cian O’Donoghue, Mark Savage, Jamie Browne
Subs: Aaron Rogers for McCabe, Aaron Murray for Jordan O’Donoghue (BC)
Referee: Paul Finnegan (St. Patrick's)