Champs up for the fight
NORTH EAST FOOTBALL LEAGUE
ARDEE CELTIC MUIRHEVNAMOR 0 3
A second win in a row and another clean sheet has enabled the champions to close the gap on the leading teams in the premier division of the North East League.
The result on Friday night meant that only six points separated the champions and the pacesetters Boyne Harps with the latter with two more games played.
It is the teams behind Boyne however, that look the real danger to their title, with second in the table Trim five points ahead, with the same number six matches played, and Newfoundwell behind them one point ahead of the champions with five games played.
However, the champions are now in touch with the main challengers, and not alone are their results and performances improving, but they also have strengthened their squad.
Colin Hoey, back home after a seven and a half year spell in Canada, has rejoined them, and made his return as a second half substitute, while they have also signed centre-half Niall Hearty, who also was on the bench, and are awaiting clearance for left back Nathan Murphy formerly with Dundalk to also lend his considerable talent to their bid to retain the league.
They started sluggish enough, and had goalkeeper Michael Cooney to thank for a top notch save that prevented Ardee from taking the lead in the opening quarter of an hour when a home player broke clear of his defence.
It was the wake up call that the champions perhaps needed as they took control from there on and Billy Smith gave them the lead Gary Clarke clears for Muirhevnamor as Gareth Kane closes in.
just before the break. He ran onto a lovely pass by Philip Duffy and was taken down in the penalty box. He took the spot kick himself which he blasted into the roof of the neck.
The striker nearly scored again straight from the re-start when he ran onto another through ball and struck the woodwork.
Ten minutes into the second half Tiernan Mulvenna finished off a lovely piece of play, featuring again Philip Duffy with a cheeky side foot dink over the Ardee goalkeeper.
The champions quickly after claimed they were denied a third goal when Duffy picked up a clearance from a corner kick and hit a cracking shot from 30 yards which hit the home crossbar and bounced down and across the goal line.
However, the third goal came 15 minutes from time after both sides in quick succession went perilously close to scoring. Michael Cooney produced a second first
rate save to deny Ardee, and the ball switched almost immediately to the other end where centre-half Chris Caulfield cleared off the visitors line.
Smith put the outcome beyond doubt when he received a pass form Gary Clarke and finished with aplomb.
The champions could easily have increased their winning margin, but importantly they are back on course again to spell out they are not prepared to easily release their grip on the title. MUIRHEVNAMOR: Michael Cooney, Brian Begley, Adrian Rafferty, Chris Caulfield, Conall Mulvenna, Philip Duffy, Mickey O’Kane, Gary Clarke (Connor Gorman), Billy Smith (Gino Cooney), Brendan Hughes (Colin Hoey), Tiernan Mulvenna (Thomas McShane).
ARDEE CELTIC: Stuart Reynolds, Robbie Reynolds (Darren Clarke), Niall Sharkey, David Fairclough, Ciaran Clarke (Graham Tighe), Mikey Nulty (Wayne Reilly), Paul Matondo, Ross Gaynor, James McMullen (Stuart Osbourne), Gareth Kane, Darryn Gaynor (Lorcan Myles).
Muirhevnamor striker Billy Smith gets a shot away as Paul Matondo closes in for for Ardee.
Muirhevnamor’s Tiarnan Mulvenna takes on on Ardee’s Mikey Nulty.