Preparations continued for Louth’s impending Leinster Senior Championship quarter-final with Carlow as Louth made light work of Cavan in this Challenge Match.
Held in Louth Village to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Páirc Mochta, Peter Fitzpatrick started with a strong side and by the full-time whistle, it was as if his side had morphed into what could be the guts of the junior panel that will play Kildare this Wednesday in the quarter-final of the Leinster Junior Championship.
Fielding a number of Under-21s and fringe players, the second half subs did not look out of place, no more so than Mochta’s man Eamonn O’Neill who gave the home crowd something to cheer about when he split the posts twice.
But for most fans, all eyes were on Fitzpatrick’s starting 15 as people tried to get an indication of who would be lining out in Portlaoise on June 12 to try and kick start another Delaney Cup chasing odyssey.
Two men that certainly staked their claim for a place in that 15 were the Reid brothers, Adrian and David.
Having missed the Allianz League campaign, the elder Reid, David has been called upon for the Championship and despite only notching up two points on the day, David was instrumental in a lot of scores in the first half, as was Adrian, both of whom are vying for places in a jam packed forward line.
Cavan may not have been the tough match Fitzpatrick would have liked before the Championship and many Louth fans did not need a reminder of the Breffni Men after that horrendous Division Three result in Breffni Park earlier this year, but thankfully this game offered a lot more positives.
The game had to wait seven minutes for its opening score and it was Louth who broke the deadlock, when Brian Donnelly punted from long range.
His score saw an immediate reply from Michael Lyng, before the Reid brothers shared the first of many exchanges between the pair. After a neat one-two David’s low strike came back off James Reilly’s legs, but it fell to Adrian who popped it over the bar.
From there Louth forged ahead as Derek Crilly fisted over from close range after a darting run from Ray Finnegan. Darren Clarke then converted an easy free before Seanie Johnston and Damien Reilly pulled scores back for Cavan.
At the 20 minute mark, the weather decided to throw a tantrum, turning this enjoyable sunny day into a torrential downpour. During that time, Crilly and David Reid found joy with scores before Cavan responded once again, this time through Keith Fanning and another from Johnston.
But just before half time, the downpour took a hiatus and as the sun rekindled its relationship with the spectators, Louth kicked on as Clarke’s neat inside pass to Shane Lennon allowed the Kilkerley man the chance he needed to find his first score since late March when he was ruled out with a quadriceps injury.
A final point from David Reid from close range saw Louth take a three point lead in at the break, 0-8 to 0-5.
A substantial number of changes were made at the break as Fitzpatrick introduced Craig Lynch, Eamonn McAuley, Ronan Greene, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Ronan Carroll, Andy McDonnell, Paraic Smith and Derek Maguire.
It took a few minutes for the multiple changes to take affect as a quick point from Lennon was soon followed by three unanswered points from Cavan. But when Louth did get going, they were able to blow Cavan away despite the fact they only hit third gear.
Paddy Keenan chipped in with his obligatory point before Maguire showed exactly why his pace is a constant threat at this level, swinging away from his marker with easy to tag a score.
Ray Cullivan responded with a point of his own but Maguire was not to be outdone as he smashed another score over with the side of his boot on 50 minutes.
With that, another handful of substitutions was made as Eamonn O’Neill was introduced to large cheers, along with Jim McEneaney, Padraig Rath and Ronan Holcroft.
Maguire, Adrian Reid and ‘Pepe’ Smith finished off crisp moves for Louth with scores before O’Neill raised a audible cheer when his sumptuous score from Andy McDonnell’s pass gave the locals a magic moment.
More to follow
Louth were not finished though as many supporters began to wish that this performance had of come in April when Louth played the Breffni men in a competitive fixture.
Keenan hit another long range effort before Smith put the icing on the cake, striking low into the net from Maguire’s centre to give Louth a 1-17 to 0-12 lead.
But before Cormac Reilly could blow for full time, there was another cheer for O’Neill who popped over the last score of the evening.
Louth will not face Roscommon in their last Challenge Match before the real thing, the Championship quarter-final with Carlow on June 12 where all eyes will be on the Wee County in their search for Delaney.
Scorers – LOUTH: Paraic Smith (1-1), Derek Maguire (0-3, 1f), Adrian Reid, Derek Crilly, David Reid, Shane Lennon, Paddy Keenan, Eamonn O’Neill, all (0-2), Brian Donnelly, Ronan Holcroft both (0-1), Darren Clarke (0-1f).
CAVAN: Seanie Johnston (0-3), Ray Cullivan, Cian Mackey (0-2) each, Michael Lyng, Damien Reilly, Keith Fanning, Thomas Corr, Michael Brennan (0-1) each.
LOUTH: Neil Gallagher; Declan Byrne, Aaron Hoey, Gerard Hoey; Ray Finnegan, Dessie Finnegan, Liam Shevlin; Paddy Keenan, Brian Donnelly; Derek Crilly, David Reid, Adrian Reid; Colm Judge, Shane Lennon, Darren Clarke.
Subs used: Craig Lynch for Neil Gallagher, Eamonn McAuley for Derek Crilly, Ronan Greene for Gerard Hoey, Stephen Fitzpatrick for Liam Shevlin, Ronan Carroll for Brian Donnelly, Andy McDonnell for David Reid, Paraic Smith for Colm Judge, Derek Maguire for Darren Clarke (all H/T), Eamonn O’Neill for Declan Byrne (50mins), Jim McEnaney for Shane Lennon (50mins), Padraig Rath for Ray Finnegan (56mins), Ronan Holcroft for Adrian Reid (58mins).
CAVAN: James Reilly; Dane O’Dowd, Patrick Carroll, James McEnroe; Mark McKeever, John McCutcheon, Damien Reilly; Thomas Corr, David Gibney; Keith Fanning, Ray Cullivan, Niall McKiernan; Seanie Johnston, Michael Lyng, Cian Mackey.
Subs: Allan O’Mara, Stephen Jordan, Dermot Sheridan, Gareth Smith, Michael Brennan, Damien Barkey, Sean McCormack, Michael Lyng, Martin Cahill, Brian McCormack, Thomas Reilly, Killian Reilly.