LOUTH booked a date with a familiar foe in Meath as they dumped Laois out of the Leinster Championship.
Playing in the O’Moore County’s back garden, Thomas McNamee’s men showed that they are made of sterner stuff as they managed to shake off the home side and book a semi-final spot against Meath, the team whom they beat in the opening round of this competition just over a month ago.
Travelling full of hope and confidence after their first win over the Royal County, Louth emerged victorious once again, coming away with a deserved win after a very mixed performance
The first half, played against a strong wind was as good as expected, particularly defensively, but the second half lacked definition at times in attack.
Keeping them at bay
Laois held the lead for only two minutes in the first half after Paul Kingston’s second point in the fourteenth minute and again for just two minutes in the second half after Kingston got their goal seven minutes after the restart but thankfully, it was Louth’s game to lose at times.
Louth struck for two goals in the space of two minutes near the forty minute mark putting them five points clear.
But amazingly the game plan, approach, tactics and superb effort which they adhered to so well for forty minutes disappeared and with it their control of the game, as if they invited Laois to take control of the ball which they did for the remaining twenty minutes.
Thankfully, though the backs soaked up the pressure to hold Laois to just four points and there was just a point in it with time running out.
And just as in the Meath game Louth finished strong. They realised that a score was needed and it was full forward Conor Grimes, using all his ability and power, who manufactured a goal despite the attention of four backs and when Ciaran Byrne slotted the next two balls between the posts Louth were never in any doubt of letting this one slip away, once again showing their solid backbone.
Their dominance of the game was the feature of the first half. They were very astute tactically around the middle third of the field, Robert McCabe and Martin Breen were efficient, the wing forwards were well deployed and the backs stepped up to the mark.
Getting off the mark
Ciaran Bellew cleared ball after ball in the early minutes and Martin Breen and Conor Smyth moved one of his clearances onto Conall McKeever who opened the scoring. It was quickly followed by a Paul Kingston free but Laois couldn’t score again for eleven minutes.
Louth were working the ball well out of defence, Niall McCabe caught brilliantly and Smyth, McCabe and Ciaran Byrne were involved before Conor Grimes was narrowly wide in a typical free flowing move.
Padraig McEvoy the Laois centre half, Padraig Murphy and Matthew Campion were getting some good ball to their forwards but their attacking moves were poor, they were under too much pressure from their markers and being forced out and across the park they were forced into shooting wides, nine in all in the first half.
Darren McMahon and McCabe gave the Louth lads an extra shot of adrenalin with great block downs, Sean Thornton collected the break down from a kick out and he used McKeever to set up John Horan whose goal bound shot was deflected for a forty five.
Laois took the lead for the first time when a quick free by Martin Scully went to Stephen Attrite and he played the ball back out to Kingston to score from play.
Louth responded quickly when Robert McCabe’s long line ball went to Byrne who played a one two with McKeever but he was expertly dispossessed by Campion but Byrne sent over the free when there was a foul throw in the clearance.
Louth continued to dominate and when Ciaran Bellew took a quick free to Byrne, Louth were back in the lead. Laois had a good closing five minutes but the Louth backs were getting even stronger and they forced them into shooting four more wides.
Louth started the second half as expected ad they looked dangerous in attack. Thornton shot narrowly wide after a deft pass from Byrne before the marksman fired over a free.
The next four minutes produced three goals. Campion and Evan Costelloe started to play and they gave their side a lift, Niall Mullen was introduced at half time as a roving corner forward and he carried the ball before delivering to Paul Kingston who got a Laois goal to put them back into the lead.
Inside two minutes Byrne delivered a high ball into the edge of the square, Grimes knocked it down, John Horan had a blast for goal but it was blocked and Conall McKeever connected with the rebound to get Louth back in the game.
A minute later Byrne and Grimes delivered again, this time they played the ball across the goal twice before Grimes blasted to the net.
Five points lead and a strong wind was Louth’s gift with twenty minutes left but it was Laois who impressed.
With this, Laois threw caution to the wind as they brought the game to the Wee County and were rewarded with four points to get them to within a point of the visitors.
But as in the Meath game Louth were able to turn the game around when it mattered, they won crucial ball and it was fitting that it was Grimes who delivered the fatal blow to Laois.
He was surrounded by four backs but he managed to get the ball over the line. Louth returned the ball from the next two kick outs and Byrne got two more points.
This hard working team will have to produce another solid effort come June 29 when they face the old enemy, Meath in Navan on June 29 which is set to be a cracking tie if the first game is anything to go by.
Dundalk Schools have already tasted success there this year and with many of that panel on the Louth side, they will be hoping for a repeat performance next month.
Scorers – LOUTH: Conor Grimes (2-0), Ciaran Byrne (0-5, 2f), Conall McKeever (1-1).
LAOIS: Paul Kingston (1-1, 1f), Dan Dunne (0-2f), Martin Scully, Matthew Campion, Evan Costello, all (0-1)
Louth: Jamie Mulholland; Niall McCabe, Dermot Campbell, Michael Kane; Ciaran Bellew, Daniel Grimes, Darren McMahon; Robert McCabe, Martin Breen; Sean Thornton, John Horan, Conor Smyth; Conall McKeever, Conor Grimes, Ciaran Byrne.
Substitutes; Fiachra Sheridan for Sean Thornton (47mins), Patrick Reilly for John Horan (54mins), Robert Brodigan for Michael Kane (58mins).
Laois: Graham Brody; Mark Cahill, John Hearn, Eoin George; Padraig Murphy, Padraig McEvoy, Dan Dunne; Matthew Campion, Keith Bracken; Martin Scully, Evan Costelloe, Stephen Attrite; Brian Kenna, Liam McGovern, Paul Kingston.
Substitutes: Jason Campion for Liam McGovern (20mins), Niall Mullen for Brian Kenna (H/T).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).