Ardee St Mary’s win first minor championship title since 2018
Ardee St Mary’s 1-10 Dundalk Gaels 1-7
Caoimhín Reilly, at Clan na Gael Park
As the teams strutted after the piper before Sunday afternoon’s curtain-raiser at Clan na Gael Park, all bar one of the Dundalk Gaels players took a glance towards the raucous congregation perched in the stand.
The minor championship final is an occasion like few others, but, by its nature, it is absolutely ruthless and all about performing on the day.
Gaels were good enough to win the Fr Murray Cup 25 years since their last title win – they had an abundance of opportunities when favoured by the strong breeze in the second half, though St Mary’s always had the cut of champions. Marching around beforehand, they all looked straight ahead, there were no sideward or backward glances – eyes firmly fixed on the prize.
And they weren’t for shirking, in spite of the concession of a major inside 60 seconds to Gaels goal-machine Cian Walsh.
Captain Tadhg McDonnell was a relentless source of determination and inspiration, dropping over a sublime point from tight on the touchline to get the Deesiders on the scoreboard, and with Seán Callaghan dominating the midfield duel for three-quarters of the contest, the favourites gradually took a grip of proceedings.
The match was level, 17 minutes in, when Adam Gillespie, who some observers rated as player of the match – an award which went to Callaghan, went on a trademark dart from the left wing towards the target, leaning his right shoulder into the tackling Jack Mullen, fending him off and side-footing beneath Tom Mahon.
Leading by 1-7 to 1-3 at the interval, Mary’s faced into a stiff gust in the second period, one which grew towards the Castletown-end of the Ecco Road ground, and seemed to lose their way. In fairness, Pádraic Tinnelly, Shaun Duffy and Tony McDonnell catapulted their displays to noticeable heights as Gaels poured forward.
Indeed, with 10 minutes to play and just two points in the difference, all momentum was with Packie O’Connor’s team and belief appeared to be inflating among their support that an upset was potentially going to come true.
However, they were just too wasteful and lacked composure at vital moments. Seven of their 10 wides came post-interval, including three-in-a-row at a time where Mary’s just couldn’t get their hands on a Tiernan Markey kickout.
And there was even a goalmouth scramble before the verdict was returned, one which the boys in red just about repelled, before captain McDonnell, who suffered from cramp during the second half, took the initiative, surging forward twice, drawing a free which Gillespie converted and then teasing over the insurance notch in time added on.
Remarkably, the victors’ starting XV entailed just four fully-fledged minors. Fr Murray may get comfortable at Páirc Mhuire on this evidence.
ARDEE ST MARY’S: Tiernan Markey; Evan Keenan, Keelin Martin, Oran McCormack-Grant; Bobby Carroll, Tadhg McDonnell 0-4 (2f), Oisín Dowdall; Lorcan Buckley, Seán Callaghan 0-2; Fionn Coyle, Adam Gillespie 1-2 (0-1f), Luke Keenan 0-2; Andy Murphy, Josh Taaffe, Brooklyn Gorman 0-1. Subs: Flynn Markey for Carroll (40), Luke Woods for Gorman (53), Oran Carrie for Mac Cormack-Grant (60), Nathan Carroll for Keenan (60).
DUNDALK GAELS: Tom Mahon; Conor Weir, Paddy O’Connell, Thomas Kindlon, Ryan Del Duca; Jack Mullen, Alan Jumbo-Gula; Sam Phelan, Liam O’Connor 0-4 (3f); Liam Coleman, Shaun Duffy, Pádraic Tinnelly 0-1; Ronan Foley, Cian Walsh 1-0, Tony McDonnell 0-2. Subs: Mikey Daly for Foley (HT), Seán Lambert for O’Connell (46), Daniel Gregory for Weir (52), Preston Keating for Daly (26), James Haughey for Duffy (60).
REFEREE: Cathal Sweeney (Stabannon Parnells).
Photo Credit-Louth GAA