AFTER tasting a bitter defeat in the last game of the league, Louth shook off the blues in emphatic fashion as they put Sligo to the sword in impressive fashion in the first round of the Nicky Rackard Cup.
Travelling for what was their fourth away fixture in a row, the players showed no signs of fatigue as they put it up to Sligo from the very start.
After the poor showing against Roscommon, who went on to win the National League Division 3B title, every effort was made to prepare the team and they did not disappoint, responding brilliantly with a stunning second half performance.
After a comfortable win over Sligo in the league, Paddy Kelly had his team ready for the expected backlash from the Western hurlers playing in their own backyard.
Sligo started with great determination but wayward shooting from their talisman and freetaker Keith Raymond seemed to unsettle them, which played into Louth’s hands.
The game’s first score came from Louth’s Gerard Smyth who pointed from play, followed by his Pearse Óg teammate Shane Callan before Sligo got off the mark.
It was a blow to Louth as the Yeats County’s first strike was a well taken goal from full forward Declan Loughnane.
Raymond opened his tally as pointed two frees as did Gerard Smyth followed by further Louth scores from Diarmuid Murphy.
Brian Corcoran after a strong run from the wing scored an excellent point to open things up for Louth but Sligo hit back with two further points from Loughnane and corner forward Ciaran Brennan before Gerard Smyth lifted his team mates with a superb goal from a tight angle.
Louth ended the first half on a high with further points from Smyth and Corcoran leaving the short whistle score at Sligo 1-6 and Louth 1-8.
Half time inspiration
If whatever the Louth boys got at half time could be bottled, teams would be clamouring for it because a thoroughly changed attitude from them swept away any thoughts Sligo had of coming back at them.
Diarmuid Murphy lofted a 70 metre free into the Sligo goalmouth and Wesley Morrissey got an outside edge on it to send it to the net. After that the floodgates opened and the scores flowed in from all angles.
Brian Corcoran tortured his marker with an unstoppable goal and several classy points. Shane Callan took control around mid-field and fed the forwards with score inviting passes.
Donagh O’Sullivan helped himself to two points as did the Wesley Morrissey whose influence was now coming to the fore.
Substitute Kevin McNally staked his claim for the next match by notching up a goal and point from play. Shane Fennel celebrated his up-coming marriage by slotting over two frees. A shell-shocked Sligo only managed one point in the second half from Damien Burke.
This display for the Louth men exorcised the ghosts from previous Nicky Rackard encounters with Sligo. It was built on a determined team effort and when things got physical none of the team were found wanting. James Connolly after a strong first half performance was untroubled in the second.
Any ball that came into the full back area was dealt with comfortably and assuredly by Donal Rafferty, Conor Kerrigan and Adrian Wallace.
The half back line after a nervous start settled in the second half with a commanding display from Diarmuid Murphy who went to centre back following a hand injury to captain Ronan Byrne.
The forwards really came into their own after the break with Corcoran, Morrissey and Horan taking the game to Sligo and winning individual duels.
Louth will now face pre-competition favourites London this weekend at a time and venue to be determined, but a win against them would certainly boost their chances of Nicky Rackard glory this year as they look to clinch the trophy.
Scorers – Louth: Brian Corcoran (1-4), Gerard Smyth (1-4, 2f), Wesley Morrissey (1-2), Kevin McNally (1-1), Donagh O’Sullivan (0-2), Shane Fennell, Diarmaid Murphy both (0-2, 2f), Shane Callan 0-1.
Sligo: Declan Loughnane (1-2), Ciaran Brennan (0-2), Keith Raymond (0-2, 2f), Damien Burke (0-1).
Louth: James Connolly; Donal Rafferty, Conor Kerrigan, Adrian Wallace; Donal McArdle, Ronan Byrne, Diarmuid Murphy; Shane Callan, Donagh O’Sullivan; Shane Fennell, Wesley Morrissey, Derek Horan; Diarmuid O;Sullivan, Gerard Smyth, Brian Corcoran.
Subs: Darren O’Hanrahan for Ronan Byrne, Kevin McNally for Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Gary Rellis for Gerard Smyth, Mark Wallace for Donal McArdle, Brian Hassett for Donagh O’Sullivan.