A huge weekend is in store for Wayne Freeman and the Louth Ladies, as they look to book their place in the Semi-finals of the National League with a victory over Derry on Sunday (Throw in 2PM).
The Girls in red have had a mixed campaign, losing their opener to Leitrim before defeating Antrim with ease last weekend, now it is all about booking a top two spot in their group and keeping their promotion hopes alive.
Luckily the tie will once again be on home soil, Clan Na Gael the venue for a second week in row. Below is everything you need to know ahead of the big game, from previous meetings to Derry’s recent form along with an analysis of the likely victor.
Recent meeting between the two sides have been heavily one-sided affairs, with the Wee County winning by an average of 14 points in their last three meetings in the National League.
For the 2020 campaign, Louth made the trip North to face The Oak Leaf County at Owenbeg last March in a tie played in very wet and windy conditions.
Louth came into the contest top of Division Four, with a perfect record of three wins from three games and they didn’t disappoint despite the wintery conditions, winning comprehensibly by 1-18 to 0-3.
It was an interesting contest that saw the home side take the lead, while keeping their opponents off the scoresheet in the first 10 minutes however eventually they buckled under the pressure and didn’t score again for the duration of the half.
1-10 without reply put the game to bed on a day where Freemen made six changes to the side which vanquished Leitrim, showing just how strong of a panel can be unearthed in Louth in what turned out to be their final game pre Covid-19.
Derry’s last visit to Clan Na Gael doesn’t bode well for their fortunes either, three early goals from Lauren Boyle, Kate Flood and Eimear Byrne helping the Girls in Red build up an early 11 point cushion on an afternoon where the visitors didn’t get on the scoresheet until 23 minutes in.
Louth didn’t ever ease off their opponents, rattling the net twice more in the second have to record an emphatic 16-point victory, 5-9 to 1-5.
Going back further to 2018, again there was a significant gap come the final whistle, outscoring them 2-4 to 0-1 in the first 20 minutes before eventually running out 3-13 to 1-9 winners.
What was common in all three of those wins was Louth’s ability to start strong and blow away Derry early, leaving them with too much to do and resulting in the win being beyond them for most of the contest.
However, when they don’t start strong Derry can pose a threat, as was seen in the 2018 All Ireland Junior Championship Semi-Final when the Oak Leafers came agonisingly close to upsetting the odds and recording a win.
That day in county Tyrone, it was Derry who got the run on Louth early on and the sides went into the break all square at 2-3 to 0-9.
Derry kept pressing on and were ahead by two with five minutes to go when they game was abruptly stopped due to a head injury to Michelle McMahon, with no ambulance on site the game was put on hold for close to an hour as both teams headed back to the dressing rooms.
When the game resumed, it was Louth that looked the more up fired up for the contest, Kate Flood remarkably soloing her way past the challenges of numerous defenders before rounding the keeper to bag a vital goal as they eked out a one point win.
It has been almost three years since that epic contest and Derry will be hoping they can once more shock The Wee County when they make the trip east this Sunday.
The 2021 National League has not been a happy hunting ground for Odhran McNeilly and his troops who have fallen to two heavy defeats so far against Antrim and Leitrim.
Their opening fixture was an Ulster derby against the Saffrons in Celtic Park Derry, but two goals conceded in the first ten minutes gave them a mountain to climb and they never recovered.
They did bag three goals, but two of those were cancelled out immediately by efforts from Antrim, who ran out impressive 5-10 to 3-4 winners.
Things didn’t get any easier in their next game against a very well drilled and determined Leitrim outfit, who hit 1-5 without reply to put the game to bed very early on.
The onslaught continued and they eventually succumbed to another humbling loss, 1-18 to 0-7 to leave them rooted to the bottom of the league, a position they will fill regardless of their final game against Louth.
Derry played in the Junior Championship last year and were grouped with Antrim and Limerick, unfortunately positive results were again hard to find.
They shipped four goals in an opening round defeat to The Treaty Women, eventually succumbing to a 4-10 to 0-7 15-point defeat, before doing slightly better when taking on the Saffrons.
They trailed by just two points at the half time break but couldn’t hold out forever as their championship ended with a seven point defeat, 2-11 to 1-7.
On recent form it is hard to predict anything other than a decisive win for Louth, who have looked impressive in both defeat to Leitrim and in victory against Antrim.
The Wee County have notched seven goals so far in the league, while Derry have conceded six and those simple stats alone predict only one winner come the final whistle.
Louth are desperate to get out of Division Four and are already playing at a higher Championship level than their opponents, who have not mustered much glory since last making a Junior final in 2017 and testing Louth to their limits in the 2018 All Ireland Semi-final.
The Oak Leafers still have plenty of recruits from those glory days but would need to muster a performance completely out of the blue if they are to put a roadblock in the Wee County’s promotion hopes.
With nothing on the line for them other then pride, you could easily see McNeilly tweaking his team and experimenting ahead of dates later in the Summer in the Junior Championship against Antrim, Carlow, Wicklow and Limerick which are far more important than this league encounter.
For Wayne Freeman nothing but a win will suffice and the expectation is that they will show on Sunday why they were high flying at the top of the table when last years competition was halted due to the pandemic.
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