Gaels have no answer to Mary’s onslaught
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