LIKE previous Louth sides, this current one has decided to walk the long road.
Last week, against Offaly, Louth’s unbeaten streak went out the window as Peter Fitzpatrick’s side were punished for a lethargic display. On Sunday last, the unbeaten streak was definitely a thing of the past as Louth were crucified again for yet another below par performance.
Everyone knows that winning your home games is vital to promotion, especially from a division that Louth have slipped up in before.
The Offaly loss was a hammer blow, but this one could be fatal, depending on what happens now.
Thankfully, down the country, Tipperary did Louth a favour as they beat Offaly, leaving promotion still in the hands of Fitzpatrick’s side. Beating Cavan and Waterford on the road should ensure that.
But based on this performance, achieving that feat is easier said than done.
Since the Wexford game, where Louth showed an amazing belief to win the game, something has gone wrong. It’s as if the side left something vital down there.
The shape, which was always recognisable in their first three games, a hard-working, industrious and dogged shape, has been tweaked somewhat. Weeks ago, Derek Crilly was dropping in from wing forward to supplement the half back line. Similarly Adrian Reid was dropping from the corner to the wing to create a vast amount of space for Shane Lennon and Derek Maguire to invade.
But against Offaly, that shape changed and against Limerick it was the same as Louth went for a more familiar shape, playing three across the top.
Unfortunately, it did not work and more worryingly, the team are still, at this stage of the season making the wrong choices in front of goal as several attacks came to nothing, courtesy of a thirst for goals.
In the first minute Mark Brennan’s powerful snap shot was excellently saved by Brian Scanlon who managed to push it wide for a ‘45’, which Brian Donnelly dropped short.
From there, Limerick manoeuvered into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead. A Ger Collins free, followed by points from John Riordan and Steven Kelly put Limerick 0-3 ahead, that is until JP Rooney glided the ball over the bar after good work by Adrian Reid.
Seconds later, Rooney thought he had put Louth ahead as he rattled the underside of the bar from 15 yards. Shane Lennon was the provider as he intercepted the ball from a poor Scanlon kick-out, handing it to Rooney but the ball bounced away from the line, a big let off for Limerick.
Brennan and Rooney’s chances were the right options at the time, but the aftermath showed a Louth team who are fixated on the possibility of goals rather than points.
Limerick, off the hook thanks to the crossbar, forged ahead to 0-6 as Kelly tormented Stephen Fitzpatrick and Dessie Finnegan, who traded turns in trying to isolate the Newcastlewest man.
John Cooke sent over a delicious score when he split the posts, pointing through a cluster of players.
Just as Limerick were turning the screw, Louth were handed a reprieve when they did get the goal they desperately sought. And boy, did they need it.
Back in it
Derek Maguire did well to latch onto a Brennan pass. Swivelling, Maguire made his dash for goal, but just as he about to send the ball home he spotted Lennon accompanying him on the other side of the posts. Squaring neatly to Lennon, the Kilkerley forward dispatched the ball into the bottom corner of the net, 0-7 to 1-1.
Limerick got the next score, creating some breathing space for them, but at this stage, it was looking like a repeat of the Offaly game from the week before as Limerick’s wide tally hit double figures before the end of the first 35.
Despite this Louth could never really punish them heavily enough. Maguire didn’t get a free, despite being the victim of a overzealous challenge. The ball was punted long to Kelly, who increased his scoring tally.
Maguire fired back with a score from a tight angle. A Lennon free and a Keenan superlative dragged Louth level, but it didn’t last as John Mullane and Seanie Buckley restored Limerick’s lead, 0-9 to 1-4 at half time.
At the interval, everyone thought that the team would have been drilled intensely as regards their shooting preferences. If it was the case, it did not seem to have the desired effect as the second way followed a familiar pattern. A number of bad wides were recorded, along with a series of shots that dropped short.
Rooney did lift the crowd, pointing after 22 seconds of the restart but it was Limerick who tagged the next two scores, through John Cooke and Collins.
Then the revival happened, one that proved to be a false dawn. Keenan’s long range speculative drive brought them to two points of Limerick. A long range Lennon score and a Maguire score drew them level. Seconds after Maguire’s point on the right hand side,
Rooney provided a carbon copy, putting Louth ahead. It was to be a brief flirtation with the lead as Limerick’s fortunate response was a goal as Pa Ranahan was the right man in the right place at the right time.
Eoghan O’Connor cut in from the right hand side and his wicked shot looked certain to raise the white flag, that is until it kissed the inside of the post. As Connor sprawled to get back in position, it fell kindly to Ranahan, who simply tapped it into the right hand side of the net.
Louth now had a mountain to climb as their quest was not made any easier by the fact that they recorded three wides in a row, as rushed efforts by Lennon, Donnelly and Crilly left them trailing by two points. A ‘45’ by Donnelly got them to within a point, but a number of wrong options in the final minutes let Louth down, as they continued to go in search of goals, rather than chip away at Limerick’s lead.
When Tom Lee’s effort crept over the bar, the signs looked ominous for Louth. With seconds remaining, the icing was put on the cake by Seamus O’Carroll, who carved open the Louth defence with a stunning ball into the path of O’Connor who easily pointed to give Limerick only their second win of the campaign.
Scorers – LIMERICK: Pa Ranahan (1-1), Steven Kelly, John Cooke, (0-3) both, Ger Collins (0-2, 1f), Tom Lee, (0-2), John Riordan, Seanie Buckley, Eoghan O’Connor, (0-1) each.
LOUTH: Shane Lennon, (1-2), JP Rooney, (0-3), Derek Maguire, (0-2), Paddy Keenan, (0-1), Brian Donnelly, (0-1, 1 ‘45’).
LIMERICK: Brian Scanlon; Mark Riordan, Shane Gallagher, Mike Sheehan; John Riordan, Johnny McCarthy, Pa Rannan; Tom Lee, Seanie Buckley; Steven Kelly, John Mullane, Eoin Hogan; Ian Ryan, John Cooke, Ger Collins.
Subs: Jack Hoare for Mike Sheehan, (H/T), Eoghan O’Connor for John Mullane (53mins), Seamus O’Carroll for Eoin Hogan, (59mins), James Kelly for Seamus O’Carroll (71mins).
LOUTH: Sean Connor; Declan Byrne, Aaron Hoey, Gerard Hoey; Derek Crilly, Dessie Finnegan, Stephen Fitzpatrick; Paddy Keenan, Brian Donnelly; Adrian Reid, Andy McDonnell, Mark Brennan; Derek Maguire, Shane Lennon, JP Rooney.
Subs: Paraic Smith for Mark Brennan, (45mins), Andy McDonnell for Ronan Carroll, (58mins), Jamie Carr for Dessie Finnegan, (58mins), Colm Judge for Derek Maguire, (66mins). Wides: LIMERICK – 15 (11 first half), LOUTH: 11 (5 first half)
Bookings: LOUTH: Brian Donnelly (35+3mins), Andy McDonnell, (50mins), Derek Crilly (60mins)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).