Ardagh St. Patrick’s held out to win the Intermediate Football Championship title they last captured back in 2006 with just a single point to spare over Carrickedmond in a tense and exciting finish to the final replay at Pearse Park on Saturday evening last.
An attendance in the region of 600 watched Ardagh play some fine football in the first half to establish a comfortable 0-6 to 0-1 lead at the break and when further points followed from Paddy Ganley (after a great move immediately on the changeover) and Shane Henry (both excellent efforts) with eight minutes gone in the second half, it looked all over as a contest.
But Carrickedmond, with the inspirational Barry O’Farrell proving to be a real driving force when switched from full-back to centrefield, eventually got their act together to dominate the remainder of the replay which was a considerable improvement on the dreadful drawn encounter the previous Sunday.
John Burns fired over a couple of frees in quick succession to close the gap and in between the generally impressive wing back Padraig McGrath had a goal attempt deflected narrowly wide. The excellent Barry O’Farrell had now clicked into top gear and he raced through to land a well struck point in the 43rd minute before another fine strike soon after from Marty Mulvey made it a very tight affair all of a sudden, 0-8 to 0-5.
Entering the final quarter Paddy Ganley had a great chance to ease the pressure on Ardagh but he was off target from a free and his side suffered a significant setback when defender Kevin Leavy was sent-off for a second yellow card offence in the 48th minute.
But right throughout the game Carrickedmond were guilty of some poor finishing (kicking a total of 12 wides as compared to 7 for St. Patrick’s) and they were dealt a bad blow when also reduced to 14 players - John Lenehan receiving his marching orders for a second booking in the 52nd minute.
Moments later a well worked move involving Barry O’Farrell and Padraig McGrath ended up with Jonathan Keegan shooting over the bar and the gap was closed to the minimum of margins (0-8 to 0-7) when substitute Mark McDonnell (making his return after a lengthy injury absence) converted a free in the 58th minute.
But Ardagh showed a lot of courage in digging deep to protect their slender advantage and after Carrickedmond wasted a free close to the sideline in the third minute of stoppage time, St. Patrick’s managed to keep possession in winding down the clock to clinch a deserved success and can now look forward to a home game against the Wexford champions in the first round of the Leinster Intermediate Club on Sunday October 20th.
Delighted Ardagh manager Liam Keenan was jumping with joy at the sound of the final whistle after a truly fine achievement in guiding his native club back to the promised land of senior championship status and his decision to start Seamus Shortt proved to be a shrewd move.
Injury had ruled Shortt out of the drawn game but he made a surprise return and his presence on the pitch gave the Ardagh team a great lift, clearly reflected in their confident first half performance that yielded six points - a brace from Killian Farrell, three from Paddy Ganley (two frees) with Danny Keenan also getting his name on the scoresheet.
Farrell, Ganley and Keenan were making the desired impact in attack, with Shortt also playing a prominent role, while the most influential players in the heart of the St. Patrick’s defence were Enda Ward and Gerard Farrell - both of whom rarely put a foot wrong in making it extremely difficult for the Carrickedmond forwards.
Wing back Ward played really well throughout the game and was rewarded with the man-of-the-match trophy but overall it was a very committed display from Ardagh despite the fact that they failed to register a score for the remaining 26 minutes of the replay.
St. Patrick’s looked in complete control after establishing a commanding 0-8 to 0-1 lead with the solitary Carrickedmond score coming from midfielder John O’Shea in the 12th minute of the first half but the gallant losers staged a terrific revival only to fall just short in the end.
ARDAGH: Michael Lenehan; Brian Farrell, Enda Gillen, Kevin Leavy; Enda Ward, Gerard Farrell, Ciaran Kelly; Shane Powell, Emmet Donlon; Cathal McGlynn, Shane Henry (0-1), Seamus Shortt; Paddy Ganley (0-4, two frees), Killian Farrell (0-2), Danny Keenan (0-1).
Subs:- Philip Gillen for E Donlon (46 mins); Frank Galvin for C McGlynn (50 mins); Shane McGlynn for C Kelly (injured, 56 mins).
CARRICKEDMOND: Gareth Higgins; James Murray, Barry O’Farrell (0-1), Niall O’Farrell; Padraig McGrath, Padraig O’Shea, John Gerety; John O’Shea (0-1), John Burns (0-2, frees); Jonathan Keegan (0-1), Francis Kelly, Tommy Cummins; John Lenehan, Marty Mulvey (0-1), Conor Kelly.
Subs:- Oisin Farrell for F Kelly (half-time); Paul McGuire for C Kelly (39 mins); Robbie Harrison for T Cummins (39 mins); Mark McDonnell (0-1, free) for J Burns (57 mins).
Referee: Michael O’Brien (Longford Slashers).