Abbey prayers answered as they bag league title
Abbey Celtic's resounding victory in Ardee last Wednesday - combined with nearest challengers Kingscourt's draw away to Square - saw them crowned Division 1 champions, sparking huge celebrations around Mell.
Ardee Celtic 1 Abbey Celtic 4
The Drogheda side started off slowly and found themselves on the back foot as Ardee pumped direct balls over their back four, and in the fifth minute keeper Bryan Smith had to save William Woods' attempted lob.
However, on the quarter-hour mark a great team goal gave Abbey the lead against the run of play. Jason Johnson knocked a ball out wide to Craig O'Connor whose first-time ball over the defence was taken on the chest by Martin Kelly before being finished well into the bottom corner past Niall Carrie.
Two minutes later the visitors were 2-0 up when a quick throw-in from Dixie Nugent was taken on the turn by Jason Johnson on the edge of the box and he hit a sweet half-volley into the far corner.
Just before the half-hour Ardee got themselves back in the game when a penalty was awarded for a shirt tug following a corner kick and the spot kick was scored by Alan Connor. Indeed, they could have been level when Gareth Kane hit the side netting coming up to the interval.
After half-time Abbey gained more control of the game, although Ardee were still a major threat on the break. The all-important third goal came after 55 minutes from another good move, with the ball falling kindly on the edge of the box to Kelly who got his second with the help of a deflection that wrong-footed Carrie.
Victory was wrapped up when a long ball upfield from Bryan Smith was missed by Ardee defender Lorcan Malone and won by Kelly who then finished brilliantly, lifting the ball over the keeper for his hat-trick. Best on the day for Abbey were man of the match Jason Reynolds, Martin Kelly and Liam McDonnell.
Abbey's Division 1 triumph and promotion to the Premier Division in the North East League represents a huge transformation for a club that was in decline but has now moved up from Division 3 to the top flight in just three seasons.
Credit for that must go to Shane Gregory, the hard-working players, chairman Paul Smith and this season's management team of Martin Brennan and Mark Smith.
ARDEE CELTIC: Niall Carrie, Robbie Reynolds, Paul Carrie, Alan Connor, Gary McKenny, Shaun O'Connor, Graham Tighe, Jonathan Deegan, Bernard Osborne, Gareth Kane. William Woods. Sub: Conor Lynch.
ABBEY CELTIC: Bryan Smith, Davy Bracken, Martin Fitzpatrick, Niall Levins, Dixie Nugent, Christopher Mc Donnell, Liam McDonnell, Craig O'Connor, Jason Reynolds, Martin Kelly, Jason Johnson, Mark Johnson, Pat Murphy, Ricky Burke, Philly Meegan, Peter Brennan, Andy Hickey, Barry Reynolds.