Gaels have no an­swer to Mary’s on­slaught

Mid Louth Independent - - SPORT - JOHN SAV­AGE AT THE RAM­PARTS

IT’S prob­a­bly a bit too early in the sea­son to be draw­ing up ‘con­tender’ lists, but if Ardee St Mary’s pose a gen­uine threat to cham­pi­ons New­town Blues this sum­mer, then Dun­dalk Gaels have a big gap to close over the com­ing months.

This clash be­tween the beaten SFC fi­nal­ists of 2016 and ‘17 was ex­pected to throw up a tight, even cagey af­fair, but it was all over by the end of the open­ing quar­ter, as the Mary’s brushed aside a fee­ble chal­lenge from Malachy O’Rourke’s men.

Af­ter start­ing with a win, over St Bride’s the Gaels were a shadow of their former selves. Granted, they were with­out Derek Crilly and Eamonn Kenny, but they had enough qual­ity on duty to make a bet­ter fist of this chal­lenge. But they only mus­tered three scores over the hour, the first of which didn’t ar­rive for a whop­ping 50 min­utes.

Missing a few key men for their open­ing round de­feat to Mat­tock Rangers, the Ardee men started like they had a point to prove, but it be­came very clear, very quickly that their hosts would of­fer pre­cious lit­tle re­sis­tance.

In front of county man­ager Pete McGrath, the Gaels were lethar­gic and sloppy from the start and within seven min­utes they trailed by four points.

The Mary’s for­wards were get­ting the run of the house and Ro­nan Car­roll, Mark Fay, Conor Gille­spie and Paudy Clarke slot­ted over in quick suc­ces­sion.

It was clear from those very early ex­changes that new Ardee boss Sean Barry will look to play a more ex­pan­sive style than his new em­ploy­ers adopted last sea­son and it was a joy to watch at times, ir­re­spec­tive of how poor the op­po­si­tion were.

What may have looked at first like a sloppy start quickly turned into an all-out emer­gency sit­u­a­tion for the Gaels when Mary’s net­ted the open­ing goal.

Conor Gille­spie was un­lucky to be de­nied by an ex­cel­lent Joe O’Donoghue save, but Dar­ren Clarke was on hand to tuck home the re­bound to an empty net.

If the home sup­port­ers were hop­ing that might fi­nally jolt their team to life, it only got worse as Clarke added a point be­fore Eimhin Keenan blasted home a sec­ond goal from close range.

Ro­nan Car­roll added an­other point be­fore the break to make it 2-8 to 0-0.

It was all over by that stage, but Mary’s picked up where they left off af­ter the break.

A cou­ple of points from the im­pres­sive Mark Fay were fol­lowed by a well-worked Conor Gille­spie goal, putting 19 points be­tween the sides with 27-odd min­utes still to play.

Seven min­utes later the deficit was out to 24 as the Gaels wait for a score of their own con­tin­ued.

Hav­ing made a few for­lorn at­tempts to rally his troops in the first-half, O’Rourke seemed to ac­cept that the Gaels just weren’t at it as the sec­ond pe­riod pro­gressed.

They even­tu­ally broke their duck with a Ja­son Clarke free in the 51st minute, but they were wait­ing an­other three min­utes for their first score from play, an op­por­tunist goal from Niall Hearty.

Mary’s had emp­tied their bench at that stage, but they con­tin­ued to pick of scores of their own with Fay adding a cou­ple of late frees to round off a re­sound­ing vic­tory.

Joe O’Donoghue, Dun­dalk Gaels blocks Dar­ragh McCon­non’s shot on goals for St. Mary’s. Pictures: Ken Fine­gan

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