LONDON proved far too strong for Louth in this Nicky Rackard Cup Second Round tie in Dowdallshill last Saturday as the Exiles cruised to a 6-20 to 1-10 victory to book their place in the semi-finals.
Following their impressive win in Sligo seven days earlier, Louth boss Paddy Kelly had described being drawn to London akin to picking up a “booby prize”, and so it proved as his side were completely blown away by the visitors.
The Wee County boss cut a disconsolate figure afterwards in his interview with the assembled hacks.
How frustrating it must be when your preparations for a championship, that stretch back to the start of the year, are torn asunder in 70 minutes against a team who should clearly be operating at a higher grade.
That point was being stressed by some angry Louth supporters at the final whistle and their sense of exasperation was understandable.
It is certainly something that needs to be addressed by the GAA for next season’s competition.
Kelly felt that London had improved immeasurable in recent months; an unfortunate reminder of just how strong emigration from this country is at the minute.
The Meath man must now rally his troops ahead of Saturday’s match with Roscommon, where they have a chance to reach the semi-finals by the back door.
It will be a tough ask for Kelly and his back-room staff. Will his players have the hunger to regroup and try and reach a final when they know that a likely return match with London is their “reward”?
London, who finished in third place in Division 3A, came into the game looking to add to their only previous Rackard success which came with a 15 point win over Louth in the 2005 final. They overcame Roscommon by a two point margin a week earlier in Round One.
Playing with the befit of a strong breeze in the first-half, Eamon Phelan’s men took control in the 5th minute when their full forward line combined to great effect. Patrick Sloane’s sideline found Martin Finn and, although his shot was well saved by James Connolly, Henry Vaughan was on hand to sweep the loose ball into the net.
That goal wiped out a one point advantage for the Wee County, given to them by scores from Gerard Smyth and Brian Corcoran either side of a Richard O’Connell effort for London.
Louth were shellshocked by a devastating 20 minute period that followed Vaughan’s goal as the green shirts hit 2-8 without reply. Midfielder Kevin Bolger got in on the act with two god scores while former Tipperary player, Martin Finn, hit his first of six frees in total.
Their two goals came in quick succession; a combination of the elements and poor Louth defending leading to both.
The first arrived in the 22nd minute when a booming, wind aided clearance by goalkeeper Aidan Ryan dropped like a missile in the Louth full-back line. It looked to have carried all the way past James Connolly without getting a touch but half-forward Kevin Canty claimed the goal.
Another followed just four minutes later. The method was the same, a long poc landing in and around the Louth posts and this time Parick Sloane took full advantage to crack a vicious effort past the hapless Connolly.
A Smyth free stemmed London’s tide momentarily bit they went on to hit another four points in succession to take a 3-14 to 0-3 lead into the break.
Any ideas that London would ease up in the second-half were dismissed when Finn fired over in the 37th minute before finding the net from a 20m free seconds later after he was hauled back by Conor Kerrigan.
Louth went on to hit four of the next five scores with substitute David Dunne and Donagh O’Sullivan making their mark. Points from Smyth and a goal from Diarmuid O’Sullivan followed but London put the gloss on a convincing display when substitute Jonathon Maher hit two goals inside the final 10 minutes.
Scorers – LONDON: Martin Finn (1-6, 6f), Patrick Sloane (1-3), Jonathan Maher (2-0), Kevin Canty (1-2), Kevin Bolger (0-4), Richard O’Connell (0-3), Henry Vaughan (1-0), Jimmy Mulcahy (0-2)
LOUTH: Gerard Smyth (0-6, 2f, 4 ‘65), Diarmuid O’Sullivan (1-0), David Dunne (0-2), Brian Corcoran, Donagh O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
LONDON: Aidan Ryan; Tony Hogan, Brian Costello, Colm Burke; Michael Walsh, David Maher, Gary Hill; Enda Cooney, Kevin Bolger; Richard O’Connell, Kevin Canty, Shane Ryan; Patrick Sloane, Martin Finn, Henry Vaughan.
Subs: Niall Forde for S Ryan, 46 mins; Jonathan Maher for M Finn, 50 mins; Conor Sexton for A Ryan, 50 mins; Jimmy Mulcahy for K Bolger, 56 mins; Kevin Falvey for C Burke, 59 mins.
LOUTH: James Connolly; Mark Wallace, Conor Kerrigan, Adrian Wallace; Domhnall McArdle, Ronan Byrne, Diarmuid Murphy; Donagh O’Sullivan, Shane Callan; Darren O’Hanrahan, Wesley Morrissey, Derek Horan; Brian Corcoran, Gerard Smyth, Kevin McNally.
Subs: David Dunne for S Callan, 41 mins; Diarmuid O’Sullivan for D Murphy, 41 mins; Aidan Callan for K McNally, 56 mins; Gary Rellis for W Morrissey, 60 mins; Barry Murphy for A Wallace, 61 mins. Booked: Diarmuid Murphy, 7 mins; James Connolly, 69 mins.
WIDES: London – 15 (8 first-half), Louth – 4 (2 first-half).
REFEREE: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).