This O’Byrne Cup clash, played in close to perfect conditions under the lights in Parnell Park, rarely fluctuated from the script most GAA fans would expect when a Division Three side goes up against the might of Dublin.
Dessie Farrell gave Louth the upmost respect and put out a much stronger team then what is usually expected of the Dubs in winter. Brian Fenton, Cormac Costelloe, John Small and David Byrne all featuring in the starting 15. It led to an all so predictable outcome.
The home side raced into an early six-point lead in the opening quarter and while The Wee County managed to somewhat contain them in a short period where they were somewhat on top, two late first half goals from Costelloe put his side into an unsurmountable lead by half time.
Both sides rang in the changes and Mickey Harte will be happy with the performances of some of those brought onto the field, but at this stage all competitive edge and intensity in the game had gone and it was all about players trying to impress their managers ahead of bigger days to come.
The star-studded Dublin came out of the blocks fast, with the men in red needing to soak up wave upon wave of attack. With ease they were turning over Louth from their kick outs, before then happily recycling the ball until they could find a man in a position to shoot.
Dermot Campbell took down Cameron McCormack as he soloed forward, leading to Costelloe opening the scoring as early as the second minute and another five points came before Harte’s troops even got the opportunity to shoot. Their first punt going well wide 12 minutes in.
David Lacey, Harry Ladd, Fenton, Costelloe, and Ross McGarry all raised white flags to make it 0-6 to 0-0 after 11 minutes. Dublin was relentless and seemed capable of scoring from any angle.
This despite the visitors doing their utmost to shut up shop. They tended to play 14 men behind the ball as they tried to put pressure on the Dublin attack, Tadgh McEneaney in general left as the only Louth attacker up front and even he was at times sacrificed for the greater good of defence.
This of course meant that when they did get the ball back from the Dubs, they had to work it up the pitch from the back. On 16 minutes Louth finally got on the board, working the ball well across the field before giving it back to Tommy Durnin. Under pressure he blasted it over the bar.
The Wee County trailed 0-7 to 0-1 by the first water break, but to their credit they upped the work rate from here and managed to keep the Boys in Blue at bay for a short period.
Louth seemed to have worked Dublin out and that constant pressure resulting from having 14 if not 15 men behind the ball was working a treat. Suddenly they were anticipating passes, making big tackles in packs, and forcing plenty of mistakes and turnovers.
Sadly, this good passage of play defensively wasn’t carrying over into the attack, a single mark converted by Tadgh McEneaney being their only score while on top. TJ Doheny and Graham Bell both missed the target in this decent patch from the visitors.
This resilient defence was great to see, but it may have only happened due to Dublin taking their eye off the ball, as when required they could dissect the Louth rear guard with one good high ball. With this weapon they put an end to any hopes of a comeback.
McCormack and McGarry added to their sides lead before the qualities of Cormac Costelloe came to the fore in the shape of two well worked goals.
The first was a spectacular team move, Ladd, Ryan Basquel and Warren Egan combining to tee up the Whitehall Colmcille clubman who blasted it home from close range.
Less than two minutes later Lacey bombed a high ball into Costelloe, who with ease won possession before turning 180 degrees and firing a bullet past Martin McEneaney. A gap that not long ago stood at six was now 14.
TJ Doheny replied with a point almost immediately, while the resulting kick out was turned over allowing Graham Bell to tee up Kyle McElroy who was in the right place at the right time to grab a goal. At the break they trailed by 2-10 to 1-3.
Harte made 12 changes to his side at half time, Martin McEneaney, Conor Faulkner and Tom Jackson the only players for Louth who lasted the full 70 minutes.
From the bench Jay Hughes and Ciaran Byrne were the ones who looked the sharpest, scoring two apiece as they outscored the Dubs 0-4 to 0-2 in the third quarter. Two more scores came from Byrne and Conor Early before a resurgent home side kicked back into gear from here.
They outscored Louth 1-6 to a 0-1 in the final 12 minutes of action, as Farrell’s fringe players were slowly introduced throughout the half in the hope of eventually usurping players who have multiple All Ireland medals in their back pocket.
One such case was Lorcan O’Dell who bagged 1-1 off the bench. Deep into injury time the Templeogue clubman did well to win a high ball before being brought down by Conal McKeever and he calmly slotted home the penalty that saw the Boys in Blue record a comprehensive 15-point win.
Dublin: M Shiel; A Rafter, D Byrne, L Gannon; C Gallagher, J Small, N Scully; B Fenton (0-3), C McCormack (0-1); R McGarry (0-2), W Egan, D Lacey (0-2); H Ladd (0-2), R Basquel (0-2), Costelloe (2-5, 0-3 frees). Subs: D Conlon for Gannon (HT), B Howard for Gallagher (44), A Byrne (0-1) for Egan, P Small for Lacey (50), M Lavin for McGarry (55), T Lahiff for J Small (65), L O’Dell (1-1, 1-0 pen) for Costelloe (65), S Carthy for McCormack.
Louth: M McEneaney; T Jackson, D Campbell, C Clarke; C Faulkner, G Browne, G Bell; T Durnin (0-1), J Murphy; J McDonnell, E Moore, TJ Doheny (0-1); K McElroy (1-0), C Fleming, T McEneaney (0-1 mark). Subs: D McKenny for Campbell (HT), C McKeever for Clarke (HT), S Healy for Browne (HT), L Grey for Bell (HT), B Duffy for Durnin (HT), C Early (0-1) for Murphy (HT), L Jackson for McDonnell (HT), E Callaghan for Moore (HT), N Sharkey for Doheny (HT), J Hughes (0-2, 0-1 free) for McEneaney (HT), C Byrne (0-4, 0-1 Free) for Fleming (HT), D Nally for McElroy (HT), McDonnell for Hughes (53).
Referee: Fintan Pierce (Offaly)
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