Ardee St Mary’s (Louth) 1-11
Paul Keane reports from St Mary’s, Ardee
ALL-IRELAND club SFC title holders Kilmacud Crokes are just 60 minutes away from franking their greatness and jumping to the top of Leinster’s roll of honour.
With star duo Paul Mannion and Shane Walsh splitting 10 points evenly between them, and Darragh Dempsey netting in the first half, the Dubliners saw off gutsy hosts Ardee to secure a provincial final spot in a fortnight.
Win that game and Robbie Brennan’s crew will join St Vincent’s and Portlaoise at the head of the provincial roll of honour on seven titles.
Another win would also see Crokes become three-in-a-row Leinster champions, something that no other club has ever done.
They had to use all their experience to win this one though and boss Brennan will have breathed a big sigh of relief at full-time after flirting with disaster.
Leading by 10 points at half-time, they were reeled in by the resurgent St Mary’s in the third quarter and, remarkably, just two points separated the teams after 46 minutes.
That was as close as Cathal Murray’s Ardee side got to scoring a shock win though and holders Crokes finished strongly to win with five to spare.
St Mary’s will kick themselves for not pushing on and at least levelling the game when they got the chance midway through that second-half. A couple of missed opportunities at that stage ultimately proved their undoing.
Visitors Crokes had the stiff wind behind them initially and used it to run a big half-time lead, handing them a massive 10-point cushion that they would end up needing.
Wing-back Cian O’Connor did his usual trick of bombing forward and sniping a point for Crokes when they opened the scoring after just 45 seconds.
Dublin midfielder Craig Dias, back in the lineup after a long-term injury, was influential too in the opening half as was hard-running half-back Andrew McGowan who burst through and fisted a point.
But the real quality came from dynamic forward duo Mannion and Walsh who struck 0-7 between them in that opening half. Both players kicked a series of long range scores and, as if to underline their quality, they also both scored points off their left and right feet.
Mary’s, who put three goals beyond Blessington in the quarter-final a fortnight ago, were under real pressure and failed to score from play in the first-half while Dempsey netted for Crokes in the 18th minute after a slick move involving Brian Sheehy and McGowan.
Ardee’s only scores in the first 30 minutes came from free-takers Carl Gillespie and Jonathan Commins and their first point from open play didn’t arrive until the 46th minute.
That latter stat doesn’t tell the full story though because Ardee did dominate the third quarter and, crucially, scored a goal from play during their blitzkrieg of scoring to reduce the deficit to just three points at one stage.
Ciaran Keenan, a key figure in their run to the last four in the province, came roaring into the game and converted back to back points from advanced marks in the 32nd and 33rd minutes.
Keenan then won a free that Commins converted before Ryan Rooney hit the most opportunistic of goals for Ardee in the 40th minute.
Crokes attacker Dara Mullin was turned over on his own 45-metre line and Rooney picked up the loose ball and lobbed a clever kick in over goalkeeper David Higgins’ head.
In all, Ardee outscored Crokes by 1-5 to 0-0 between half-time and the 46th minute to cut their arrears to two just two points.
They could have drawn it too but a couple of point attempts that went wide from Rooney and Commins cost them and Crokes showed all their experience in the closing 15 minutes or so.
Walsh kicked three points in the final quarter while substitutes Shane Horan and Luke Ward both got on the scoresheet as the Dubliners displayed the full power of their bench.
Kilmacud Crokes scorers: Paul Mannion 0-5, Shane Walsh 0-5 (0-3f), Darragh Dempsey 1-0, Cian O’Connor 0-1, Andrew McGowan 0-1, Shane Cunningham 0-1, Shane Horan 0-1, Dara Mullin 0-1, Luke Ward 0-1.
Ardee St Mary’s scorers: Ryan Rooney 1-0, Jonathan Commons 0-3 (0-3f), Ciaran Keenan 0-3 (0-3m), Carl Gillespie 0-2 (0-2f), Liam Jackson 0-1, Tom Jackson 0-1 (0-1f), Daire McConnon 0-1.
1. David Higgins,
19. Anthony Quinn, 9. Rory O’Carroll, 4. Dan O’Brien,
7. Mark O’Leary, 5. Cian O’Connor, 6. Andrew McGowan,
8. Brian Sheehy, 24. Craig Dias,
21. Darragh Dempsey, 13. Paul Mannion, 12. Dara Mullin
14. Hugh Kenny, 11. Shane Cunningham, 15. Shane Walsh.
ARDEE ST MARY’S
1. James McGillick
3. Donal McKenny, 2. Eimhin Keenan, 4. Tiernan Corrigan,
5. Kian Moran, 6. Paraic McKenny, 7. Carl Gillespie,
8. Sean Callaghan, 9. Robert Leavy,
11. Liam Jackson, 10. Ciaran Keenan, 12. Jonathan Commins
13. Ryan Rooney, 14. Daire McConnon, 15. Tom Jackson.
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).2023-11-19T16:20:59Z dg43tfdfdgfd