Crilly strike sparks a surprise party for Dundalk Gaels
IT will go down as the first 'shock' of the SFC campaign, but no-one in Dunleer was really that surprised to see Dundalk Gaels pull through what was always likely to be a tight Group C opener last week.
By virtue of the fact that they emerged from the chasing pack to take on St Pats in last year's Joe Ward decider, Dreadnots were tentative favourites, but their opponents have been threatening a similar 'breakthough' in recent seasons and were full value for their victory when push came to shove in the final quarter.
An early Paraic Smith goal possibly gave Dreadnots' followers a false sense of security, but the Gaels weren't fooled and toiled away quietly until Smith's county colleague Derek Crilly gave his side the lead for the first time in the contest with a well-taken goal on the three-quarter mark.
Teed up by the impressive Ger McSorley, the strike underlined Gaels' second-half superiority as they plundered 1-5 without reply between the 40th and 52nd minutes. Dreadnots didn't have the time or wherewithal to recover.
They did hit back with a couple of late points from Smith and Luke Judge, but the latter's effort came deep in injury-time when only a goal would really have sufficed for Paddy Clarke's side.
It was a disappointing defeat for the canny old warrior, but he won't have been throwing chairs or kicking football boots in the dressing room afterwards.
It's easy to forget that Dreadnots were hammered by Pats in their opening game last season, but recovered to reach the final, and with a severely weakened Newtown Blues up next after the Bank Holiday break, Clarke will be confident his team can pull through.
That possibility won't be lost on Dundalk Gaels as they take on the Blues at Castlebellingham on Friday night. Defeat could leave them relying on the lottery of score difference further down the line and with just two points to play around with, it would be an agonising wait.
However, they will be boosted by this display and the news that Colm Judge has followed Andy McDonnell Stateside, leaving the Drogheda outfit extremely short on firepower.
Gaels certainly didn't lack a killer instinct on Sunday as six players accounted for their 12 scores and with the evergreen Peter McGinnity make an eye-catching return at midfield, Gerry Copas was able to leave Derek Crilly up top in the dangerzone throughout.
That has been an Achilles' heel in the past, with the Louth man invariably dragged back out to the middle to firefight when things aren't going so well.
It remains to be seen if the Gaels can sustain this impressive form as the summer draws in, but either way, don't write off a Dreadnots revival just yet.
Remarkably, Newtown Blues could yet end up as the big losers in all of this!
DUNDALK GAELS: Stephen McLoughlin; Daire O'Callaghan, Jamie Faulkner, Eamonn Kenny; James Stewart, David Maloney, David McComish; Stephen Coleman, Peter McGinnity; Sean McCann 0-2f, Gary Shevlin, Niall Hearty 0-1; Sean Fee 0-3 (0-1f), Derek Crilly 1-2, Gerard McSorley 0-2. Subs: Gerard Fee 0-1 for N Hearty (ht), Andrew Coleman for G Fee (60+).
DREADNOTS: Darren Malone; Brian Gargan, Derek Shevlin, Dermot Campbell, Richard Kirwan, Padraig rath, David O'Brien; Fergal McGuigan, James Califf 0-3 (0-1f); Pat Lynch, Cian McEvoy, Conor Campbell 1-1; Ronan Califf, Paraic Smith 0-4, Anthony Lynch. Subs: Barry Faulkner for A Lynch (43), Luke Judge 0-1 for B Gargan (58), Ciaran Cunningham for R califf (59).
REFEREE: Declan Dunne.