AT the end of this entertaining encounter at Celtic Park on Sunday, both teams stay as they were before the match, with Limavady keeping their second division status and Ardmore staying in Division Three and the result was probably best for both teams!
Limavady were much the fitter and younger team and fully deserved their victory while Ardmore, with nearly half the team in the 30 something bracket would definitely struggle in the higher grade.
That said Ardmore played with a lot of spirit but in key areas their lack of pace was badly exposed. They hung on to the coat tails of the game until the last seven minutes but the fresher Limavady team put the game to bed with the last three scores of the game.
Limavady, who began the season in such poor form, have definitely improved under Hugh Mulholland and the introduction of younger players has given them a cutting edge. Their defence was not always water-tight and at a time when Ardmore were threatening a comeback it took a brilliant save from keeper Phelim Mullan to keep the junior side at bay.
It took the introduction of Eoin Kelly, who had a suspension overturned just two days earlier on appeal, to turn the screw. He made an immediate impact and brought a bite to the Wolfhounds’ attack.
The reflex saves from Ardmore’s long-serving goalie, Eoin Mailey, who looked as sharp as ever, kept Ardmore in the hunt.
Young Eoghan Dooher was moved to full-back in the absence of a couple of regulars and he did reasonably well but his pace in the half-back line was missing.
Michael Friel was sound at centre-half. Damien McGee had a decent game at midfield while in attack Barry Gormley and Eddie Bell presented the biggest threat.
The game got off to a lively start with Ruairi O’Kane putting the Wolfhounds in front in just under two minutes. With Limavady just playing their two big men Conor Forrest and Eoghan Rogers in the front line this was leaving acres of space for O’Kane who was creating havoc on the right wing. Just after Eddie Bell levelled he sent over a sweet left footer.
Ardmore were playing some decent football and after Peter McLaughlin forced a ’45 Barry Gormley’s effort came off the bar and when William McLaughlin was fouled in possession he sent over the equaliser from a free.
Sean Forrest and Ryan Storey picked up yellow cards following a tussle with the ball elsewhere.
After a John Deighan free was cleared Ardmore countered with a long ball in from Barry Gormley to Eddie Bell who was fouled close to goal and from the penalty spot Barry Gormley expertly planted the ball in the corner of the Limavady net with 12 minutes gone.
Limavady then had an amazing miss when Sean Forrest hit the bar from point blank range. The same player was fouled only to see his cousin, Conor slice the free well wide.
Most of the traffic at this stage was heading in the direction of the Ardmore goals but both Eoghan Rogers and Sean Forrest missed good chances.
It was the 23rd minute before Limavady broke an 18 minute barren spell and that came when Sean Forrest was pulled down and Conor Forrest sent over the free. Sean Forrest then went down and from the free Ruairi O’Kane was spot on.
It was all Limavady and five minutes from the break Ruairi O’Kane finished off a brilliant move with the equalising point.
It was O’Kane who had the last score of the half from a 20 metre free to give the ‘Roesiders’ a narrow but deserved 0-06 to 1-02 interval lead.
Ardmore had to wait a few minutes until Limavady emerged for the second half but it was the Division Two team who were first to trouble the scoreboard operator when John Deighan thumped over a mighty point two minutes in.
Eoin Kelly came in for Aaron Brolly and his first touch as to latch on to a John Deighan pass and thump the ball past Eoin Mailey for a 1-07 to 1-02 lead.
Conor Forrest then set up O’Kane for a 1-08 to 1-02 lead but after William McLaughlin was fouled he converted his own free to cut the gap to five.
In the 36th minute Ruairi O’Kane should have finished the game as contest when he was put through after a good build up by John Deighan and Michael Higgins but he shot across the goals and wide.
Sean Forrest was forced to retire after an asthma attack and his place was taken by rising star Dessie Loughery. At this stage another Loughery, namely Martin, replaced Ryan Storey on the Ardmore team.
Ardmore defender Anthony Hargan was yellow carded for fouling Rogers and Conor Forrest was spot on with the free.
At the other end Eddie Bell made poor use of a free and Barry Gormley had a ’45 cleared. With 17 minutes left Eddie Bell gave the St. Mary’s a glimmer of hope with a point but that glimmer dimmed when William McLaughlin had the ball in the Limavady net only for the score to be ruled out for a foul on a Limavady defender.
It was business as usual for Limavady as they raided again and a well worked attack finished with Rogers punching a point to leave the score 1-11 to 1-05. Ardmore were not finished and in many ways the real turning point of the game came in the 50th minute.
Paul McLaughlin slipped in behind the Limavady defence and took a pass from Bell but his blistering shot was brilliantly saved by Phelim Mullan and the expense of a ’45. From that ’45 Barry Gormley’s effort was punched over by Chris Duddy.
With seven minutes left Ardmore were still battling away and they were rewarded with a superb long range point from midfielder Damien McGee. A goal attempt from Eddie Bell was blocked down by defender Carney and Limavady pulled away from there to the finish.
Conor Boyd made a great break out of defence in the 56th minute and placed Eoghan Kelly for a point. Conor Forrest was fouled by Anthony Hargan who was yellow carded and the big full forward made no mistake from the difficult free. John Deighan put the game beyond Ardmore when he sent over a free from near 50 metres.
In the last minute Ardmore keeper Mailey made a superb save from Eoin McLaughlin at the expense of what proved to be a fruitless ’45. The last action of the game saw a Conor Forest free fall short and Limavady had achieved their goal.
Limavady scorers; Ruairi O’Kane 0-05, 0-02frees, Eoghan Kelly 1-01, Conor Forrest 0-04frees,John Deighan 0-03, 0-02frees and Eoghan Rogers 0-01.
Ardmore scorers; Barry Gormley 1-01, 1-0 pen, William McLaughlin 0-02frees, Eddie Bell 0-02, Chris Duddy and Damien McGee 0-01 each.
Limavady - Phelim Mullan, Martin McVeigh, Ciaran Moore James Carney, Niall McKeever, Conor Boyd, Aaron Brolly, Michael Higgins, Eoin McLaughlin, Ruairi O’Kane, John Deighan. Sean Forrest, James Thompson, Conor Forrest, Eoghan Rogers; Subs - Eoghan Kelly for Aaron Brolly (34); Dessie Loughery for Sean Forrest (37) and Odhran Fleming for Eoghan Rogers (58).
Ardmore - Eoin Mailey, Karl McLaughlin, Eoghan Dooher, Anthony Hargan, Michael Friel Ryan Storey, Gerard Storey, Damien McGee, Barry Gormley, Peter McLaughlin, Paul McLaughlin, Eddie Bell, Chris Duddy, William McLaughlin; Subs: Martin Loughery for Ryan Storey (35).
Referee:John Joe Cleary (Castledawson).