Bellurgan keep title hopes alive
Bellurgan kept their receding title hopes on life support for a while longer with a hard-earned victory over basement battlers Duleek on Sunday morning.
Bellurgan 2 Duleek 0
With the sides due to meet in two separate cup competitions in the coming weeks, the Peninsula outfit also fired a statement of intent across the bows of their visitors, who rarely threatened to upset the odds at Flynn Park.
The sides have been drawn against each other in the next round of the Tully Bookmakers Challenge Cup and they will also meet in the semi-final of the Kilmessan Shield and despite sitting second in the League, the knockout competitions now represent a more realistic trophy target for Bellurgan.
They won't let their title dream die without a fight, but they will need all three of their rivals to slip up over the concluding weeks of the campaign with Muirhevnamor, Newfoundwell and Navan Cosmos set for a three-way battle.
Muirhevnamor have the points on the board and lead Bellurgan by seven with a game more played, but the town side can be passed by Navan and Newfoundwell if they were to win their games in hand.
For their part Bellurgan have to keep winning and hope for the best, and after a cagey opening, they were full value for the points on Sunday.
Perhaps with the cup battles on their minds, it took 15 minutes for either side to carve out a meaningful chance.
Midfield duo Brian White and Diarmuid Muprhy combined in the final third, but after latching onto a delicate through-ball from White, Murphy's strike was deflected off-target by a defender.
However, 10 minutes later the home side did break the deadlock and again White was in the thick of the action, this time threading a through-ball to Ciaran Sheelan, who rounded the 'keeper and slotted home.
Bellurgan were well on top at that stage and they went close to doubling their lead when Cormac Renaghan beat his man on the left and pulled a cross back to White at the edge of the area. The former Louth GAA star got his technique spot on, refling a sublime volley to towards the top corner, but the Duleek 'keeper somehow produced an equally impressive finger-tip save.
Renaghan was the provider again as Bellurgan went close again just before the break, but Stephen Finnegan couldn't divert his cross on target as the home side adjourned with the slenderest of leads.
Duleek didn't create a chance of note in the opening half, but they should have squared it up shortly after the break.
You can normally put your house on former junior international Barry Kavanagh in a one-on-one situation, but after Robbie Arthur had pulled off a superb save, the striker somehow clattered an upright with the rebound.
And five minutes later the game had slipped away from Duleek.
Left full John Smith set Cormac Renaghan racing down the left again and this time Ciaran Sheelan ensured the winger's endeavour was rewarded with an unstoppable volley from close range.
Duleek never really looked like finding a way back after that and Bellurgan could have added to their tally when substitute Daniel O'Connor forced another good save from the 'keeper. Another sub, and joint manager, Paddy Quinn, also had a header cleared off the line.
While the win keeps Bellurgan in the title race, Duleek fell three points adrift at the bottom. They have games in hand on the teams ahead of them, but need to start converting them into points fast.
Bellurgan: Robbie Arthur, Sean McEvoy, John Smith, Ray Finnegan, James Renaghan, Brian White, Owen Armstrong (Paddy Quinn), Diarmuid Murphy (Daniel O'Connor), Stephen Finnegan, Ciaran Sheelan, Cormac Renaghan.