Title-hopefuls Ajax Athletic scored six of the best on Sunday as they overpowered St. Cormac’s in an eventful encounter in Patrick Mernagh Park to move to the top of the Division 2 table.
The Rajahs held a commanding 4-1 advantage at the break thanks to goals from Fenwick O’Shea, Niall Thorpe, Dayle Donohoe and Brian Balfe, with Matthew Dunne converting a penalty for the saints.
The hosts then had to play the entire second-half with ten men as centre-back Shaun O’Shea picked up a second yellow card seven minutes before the interval, but they made light of their numerical disadvantage and continued to pose a real threat going forward after the change of ends.
An own goal and a strike from substitute Seán ‘Beefy’ Farnan extended their lead to 6-1, and although St. Cormac’s pulled two back before the final whistle through Stephen Lacey and an own goal, it was mere consolation for the visitors.
The home side looked well up for it from the off, with Keith Casey curling a shot off target inside the opening two minutes.
However, St. Cormac’s came close to taking the lead in the sixth minute, with goalkeeper Jason Russell stretching well to keep out James Sweeney’s first-time effort.
Ajax had a gilt-edged opportunity to get their noses in front with eight minutes on the clock when Brian Balfe played a ball through to Dayle Donohoe and the attacker was taken down in the area.
Fenwick O’Shea took the responsibility from the spot but goalkeeper Niall Finn dived to his left and superbly kept out the penalty.
O’Shea didn’t have to dwell on the miss for too long though, as ten minutes later he arrowed a sweet 25-yard strike to the corner of the net to edge the Enniscorthy men in front.
Cormac’s tried to respond and Mick Sweeney saw a decent strike well held by Russell, but they had it all to do when Ajax pounced for a second goal in the 25th minute.
Dayle Donohoe, who continually tormented the St. Cormac’s defence, did brilliantly on the right before squaring to Niall Thorpe to tap home.
Donohoe then got on the scoresheet himself, bundling home from close range after the visiting defence had failed to deal with a right-wing cross from Liam Murphy.
St. Cormac’s were handed a glimmer of hope when Shaun O’Shea stopped an attack by handling the ball just outside the area and was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
That glimmer grew brighter moments later when Mick Sweeney was brought down for a penalty and Matthew Dunne confidently tucked the spot-kick away into the right-hand corner of the net.
Their joy was short-lived, however, as Brian Balfe curled in a free-kick from just outside the area to restore the three-goal cushion for Ajax, and they went in at the break with a 4-1 lead.
St. Cormac’s never looked like summoning up a fightback in the second-half and Ajax had their fifth goal in the 65th minute when Dayle Donohoe delivered a cross into the danger zone that was turned into his own net by the outstretched leg of the unfortunate Liam Walsh.
Donohoe was at it again eight minutes later, showing blistering pace down the left wing before pulling the ball back to Seán ‘Beefy’ Farnan, who expertly guided a side-footer to the far corner of the net.
The Cormac’s response was immediate with Stephen Lacey getting on the end of a Mick Sweeney cross to nod in at the back post, while they added another six minutes from time when Liam Walsh did well to make space for a shot and forced the ball over the line with the help of a defender.
Ajax Athletic: Jason Russell, Brian Balfe (capt.), Shaun O’Shea, Fenwick O’Shea, Anthony Russell, Keith Casey, Pa O’Shea, Graham Donohoe, Dayle Donohoe, Liam Moore, Niall Thorpe. Subs. - Liam Murphy for Moore, inj. (21), Seán Farnan for Thorpe (67), Conor Ronan for Balfe (69), Craig McGuire for D. Donohoe, inj. (79), also Glenn Fortune, Rory Delaney.
St. Cormac’s: Niall Finn, Stephen Lacey, Johnny Fitzgerald, Eoin Murphy, John Ivory, Eoin Gahan, Jamie Doyle, Fionn Walsh, Matthew Dunne (capt.), Mick Sweeney, James Sweeney. Subs. - Liam Walsh for Murphy (29), Adam Byrne for Ivory (57), Lee Power for J. Sweeney (69), Harry Ellix for Fitzgerald (79), Joe Ivory for Gahan (79), also Jack Ellix.
Referee: Peter Rowlands.