The Downs 1-17 Ardee St Mary’s 0-12
By Gerry Buckley at TEG Cusack Park
Crowned Westmeath champions for the first time in 17 years four weeks ago, The Downs had a surprisingly comfortable win against St Mary’s, Ardee in pleasant conditions in Mullingar,winning by an unflattering eight-point margin against the Louth champions.
The home team got off to a great start with a quality point from their marquee forward Luke Loughlin after 90 seconds. It got even better for Lar Wall’s troops some two minutes later when Kevin O’Sullivan scored a great goal at the end of a fine move. Daire McConnon got the wind-assisted visitors off the mark in the sixth minute with a neat point, but The Downs were playing the better and more direct football, with Loughlin especially potent in attack.
The latter’s third point from play in the 18th minute was followed by a fisted score from Andrew Kilmartin, compensating for a glaring goal miss a few minutes earlier when teed up by O’Sullivan. A quickfire brace from defenders Conor Keenan and Kian Moran kept the Louth champions in touch (1-5 to 0-3) with 25 minutes elapsed.
On the hour mark, Ciaran Keenan set up McConnon who looked sure to find the net, but he hesitated and the ball was cleared. Kilmartin pointed in style at the other end, and injury-time points from Darren Clarke and Ciaran Keenan (from a very tight angle) left the scoreboard at the break reading: The Downs 1-08 St Mary’s 0-05.
Better known as a Westmeath hurler, Niall Mitchell pointed just 15 seconds into the second half. When the impressive O’Sullivan pointed with a goal on the cards in the 36th minute, The Downs led by 1-11 to 0-07. In truth, they never looked in the slightest danger of being overturned at that juncture. Westmeath star Loughlin ended the game with five points from play, with two of his colleagues also hitting hat-tricks from open play, wing back Conor Coughlan and Kilmartin in attack.
The latter might have goaled in the 49th minute when set up by the powerful Mitchell. At the other end, Trevor Martin saved smartly from McConnon in the 54th minute, and there was an air of inevitability about the closing stages. McConnon was unlucky to see his rasping shot come off the crossbar in the dying seconds, but the outcome had long since been decided and it is The Downs who will face Ratoath in the Leinster semi-final in Croke Park next Saturday week as they seek to replicate their achievement of reaching the provincial final for the only time 50 years ago, when they lost heavily to St Vincent’s.
Scorers for The Downs: L Loughlin 0-5, K O’Sullivan 1-1, C Coughlan, A Kilmartin 0-3 each, I Martin, N Mitchell (1f) 0-2 each, J Lynam 0-1.
Scorers for Ardee St Mary’s: Conor Keenan, Carl Gillespie (1f), R Carroll, D Clarke (1f) 0-2 each, K Moran, Ciaran Keenan, D McConnon, D Matthews 0-1 each.
The Downs: T Martin; Darragh Egerton, P Murray, E Burke; C Coughlan, M Kelly, J Moran; C Drumm, C Nolan; A Kilmartin, N Mitchell, K O’Sullivan; I Martin, L Loughlin, J Lynam.
Subs: Dean Egerton for O’Sullivan (46), D Clarke for Drumm (50), B Murtagh for Kilmartin (57), D Carroll for Lynam (60 + 1), J Carroll for I Martin (60 + 2).
Ardee St Mary’s: J McGillick; P McKenny, R Leavy, Conor Keenan; K Moran, K Faulkner, Carl Gillespie; RJ Callaghan, D Clarke; Conor Gillespie, Ciaran Keenan, L Jackson; S Matthews, D McConnon, T Jackson.
Subs: R Carroll for Matthews (h-t), E Malone for Leavy (h-t), D Matthews for L Jackson (41), R Rooney for Clarke (51), T Corrigan for Conor Gillespie (57).
Ref: J Hickey (Carlow).