Ardee St Mary’s 3-10
St Mochta’s 1-14
If the rest of the Louth Senior Football Championship lives up to this opening-night humdinger, then buckle up for a roller-coaster six weeks. The ingredients were there for an explosive start, but this clash had it all – goals, red cards, a dramatic late twist and, best of all, two teams attacking each other at every opportunity.
St Mochta’s must have been pinching themselves at the final whistle, but when the shock of defeat subsides, they’ll be kicking themselves.
They were the better team for large chunks of an absorbing contest, but the concession of two early goals would eventually come back to haunt them. Even then, it took a last-gasp Carl Gillespie goal to bust St Mary’s out of jail.
With his team a point down in injury-time, almost everybody in the ground expected him to settle for a point and a draw game, but the youngster showed nerves of steel to sell a delicious dummy and drive a low finish to the bottom corner.
That wasn’t even the last act, as moments later the superb Craig Lennon came within a whisker of engineering a winning goal for St Mochta’s, but after resisting the urge to pull on a loose ball on the edge of the square, he eventually gathered possession only to be thwarted by a match-winning block by substitute Mark Fay.
But that was just one of several regrets for St Mochta’s.The first was allowing Daire McConnon in for a goal after just 40 seconds and the next was
Tom Jackson in for a second major on 14 minutes, after battling so hard to get back on terms.
One of many strange decisions by referee Stephen Johnson, saw Jackson penalised for celebrating the goal too vociferously to an opponent, and a second booking saw St Mary’s reduced to 14.
They weren’t down a man for very long as 13 minutes later Ryan Cash also picked up a second yellow. That one was was more clearcut, but you had to wonder if Johnson had backed himself into a corner with a few unnecessary early cards for a handbags incident after seven minutes.
Either way the sides were at 14 apiece for the second period and the extra space possibly added to the spectacle.
The two early Ardee goals meant St Mochta’s had to battle their way back, but they kicked four bad wides in quick succession in the lead-in to half-time and adjourned three points in arrears, 2-4 to 0-7.
St Mary’s supporters must have expected their side to kick into gear after the interval, but it just didn’t happen and instead St Mochta’s continued to dictate the tempo.
If anything they were even more dominant in the second-half and hit the front early when Lennon found the net and Gerry Garland added a point to make it 1-8 to 2-4.
Thereafter, the Byrne brothers – neither of whom played in midfield – and Craig Lennon ensured St Mochta’s kept their noses in front and looked destined for a deserved victory.But St Mary’s had other ideas and a five-minute resurgence saw them close to within a point before supersub Gillespie his magic in the closing stages.
The dummy was a sublime piece of skill, the finish ice-cool, and it was enough to secure one of the favourites for Joe Ward a win they scarcely deserved.
The nature of the victory won’t trouble Sean Barry one bit as the character his players showed to stick at it and turn a perilous situation around is a trait they will have to call upon again over the next six weeks.
For St Mochta’s, playing their part in such an entertaining game will come as little consolation, but if they can reproduce this kind of display against St Pat’s in two weeks time, this sucker-punch doesn’t have to be a knockout blow.
Ardee St Mary’s: Gavin Douglas; Jay Crawley, Karl Faulkner, Conor Keenan; Niall Eccles, Donal McKenny, Kian Moran 0-1; Robbie Leavy, Liam Jackson; Tom Jackson 1-0, Ronan Carroll, Conor Gillespie 0-3 (2f); Ciaran Keenan, Luke Matthews 0-4f, Daire McConnon 1-1. Subs: Carl Gillespie 1-0 for L Matthews, Jonathan Commins for Conor Gillespie, Evan Malone for Niall Eccles, Mark Fay for Ronan Carroll.
St Mochta’s: Jason Callan; Conor Garland, Ben Goss Kieran, Oisin Callan; Ryan Cash, Barry Mulholland, Owen Lennon; Gerry Garland 0-1, Danny Kindlon 0-1mk; Craig Lennon 1-1, Ciaran Byrne 0-4, Jamie Farrell; Philip Englishby, Declan Byrne 0-6 (4f), Cormac Smyth 0-1. Subs: David Lennon for B Goss Kieran, Darren McMahon for O Lennon, Liam O’Flaherty for D Kindlon.
Referee: Stephen Johnson.
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