Ardfert show better battling qualities to send Sheehan-less Saints marching
After six minutes of this engaging Intermediate Championship first round contest there looked like being only one winner. St Marys, despite being without the injured Bryan Sheehan, raced into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead and were displaying all the purpose of a team intent on making their long journey worthwhile.
By the 15th minute it was hard to see a winner other than Ardfert. Mike Moloney pointed for them on their first attack in the seventh minute – playing into a very stubborn wind – and when Jerry Wallace was pulled back for a soft enough penalty, Moloney slid the ball low past Damien Horgan to level matters.
Even at that early stage it was advantage Ardfert. First, that goal would count for a lot against that wind, and second, Sheehan's absence was depriving St Marys of a free-taker you could put your mortgage on. Most of all, though, Ardfert are a tough team to beat, and as this contest wore on it was obvious which team was the more cohesive and tenacious collective.
Three minutes after Moloney's goaled penalty Sean Cournane sliced a high effort for a point, but Liam Stapleton did well to win the ball behind Rory Horgan and smash the ball past Nicky O'Sullivan to restore a three-point lead for St Marys.
Again Ardfert rallied, and driven on by Darren Dineen at centre back, and with Damien and Jerry Wallace forming a solid platform at midfield, the home side engineered scores from Damien Wallace (free), Dareen Dineen and Mairtin Ferris to make it 1-4 apiece after 23 minutes.
St Marys were all movement and action up front where Paul O'Donoghue toiled hard and Sean Cournane got on the ball lots, but the sum of the individual parts didn't equal the collective effort required, and for all their threat St Marys made little inroads against a tenacious Ardfert defence.
Niall O'Driscoll and Denis Daly had points for the visitors, while David Griffin and Damien Wallace (free) responded in kind for the hosts, as both teams carried 1-6 to the interval, with Ardfert in by far the better position.
O'Driscoll hammered over a long-range score in the opening minute of the new half in a defiant statement of intent, but Damien Wallace converted two frees as Ardfert got back into their groove.
Cournane then pointed two frees over a 13-minute period, either side of Daniel O'Sulloivan hitting the post with a decent shot, and when Shane Griffin nicked a point in the 52nd minute the teams were tied at 1-9 apiece.
The game was still there for St Marys, but there was something resolute about Ardfert by then, and as they defended in numbers John Egan began to run the show with some very controlled football. Ferris converted a '45 after Darren Wallace was denied a goal from close range and then Egan doubled Ardfert's lead in thye 58th minute as the self-belief rose in the home side and drained from St Marys.
Cian Hussey added the insurance point in injury-time but the winning of this game came in the first half when Ardfert hung in there brilliantly against that strong wind and then proceded to huff and puff after the break until they blew St Marys away.
Ardfert: Nicky O'Sullivan, Fionan Horgan, Rory Horgan, Niall Clifford, Michael Moloney (1-1, 1-0 pen), Darren Dineen (0-1), Stephen Leen, Damien Wallace (0-4f), Jerry Wallace, Darren Wallace, John Egan (0-1), David Griffin (0-1), Shane Griffin (0-1), Mairtin Ferris (0-2, 1 '45'), Cian Hussey (0-1). Subs: John Galvin for D Griffin (inj).
St Marys: Damien Horgan, Sean O'Shea, Brian Curran, Daragh O'Sullivan, Daniel O'Sullivan, Denis Daly (0-1), Conor Quirke, Niall O'Driscoll (0-2), Kieran O'Driscoll, Conor O'Shea, Paul O'Donoghue (0-1f), Shane Horgan, Sean Cournane (0-4, 2f), Daniel Daly (0-1f), Liam Stapleton (1-0). Subs: Austin COnstable for S Horgan.
Referee: P O'Sullivan (Firies)