Louth's Enda O'Neill gets away from Kildare during tonight's Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship clash in Ardee. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Louth 0-16 Kildare 1-18
Kildare gave a score-taking exhibition to see off Louth in tonight’s Leinster MFC second round clash at Páirc Mhuire, Ardee.
Five of their starting forwards and both midfielders registered at least once, with Aedan Boyle - the only attacker who failed to score - integral to several of his team’s 1-18 tally.
Yet Louth can feel quite content with their display, given that, for the second game on the trot, they struck 16 points - a total often of the winning variety.
But, unlike in Kilkenny a fortnight earlier, they failed to find the net, despite having some opportunities to do so, and how costly that proved.
Early in the match, Donal Leavy hit the butt of the post and Conall McCaul forced a flying save from Kildare ’keeper Cian Burke as Louth sought the solace of an prompt major - one which could have swung the tide firmly in favour of Gus Flynn’s side.
Though, as it transpired, the Reds hit five of the opening seven points into the road-end goals, Craig Devlin, McCaul (2), Luke Matthews and Tom Gray converting in fairly spectacular style.
But the game began to take a juvenile trend. When one team launched a successful attack, they tended to string periods of dominance together. Take Kildare’s 15-minute burst midway through the opening half, where they hit eight points in succession as the hosts became unable to win primary possession of their own restarts.
Blame certainly cannot be wholly attached to No.1 Niall Brady for this. The Cooley man pulled off some fine stops and found range with his kick-outs, but his outfielders were simply static and found it palpably difficult to gather when the ball was sent their way.
It led to Kildare closing them in, like hounds circling a flock of sheep, condensing the Wee County further into an isolated vicinity. Granted it was a game of high-quality scores, but, in this sense, the encounter resembled an U10 affair where the positions weren’t properly zoned; all the play within 40 yards of the target.
Louth eventually found a way to advance and hit two of the half’s final three points as they trailed by four at the break - 0-11 to seven - and the gap was reduced to one score after Gray and Matthews (free) had responded to the third of Kildare forward Aaron Browne’s five wonderful efforts.
The next four points were shared, ensuring the difference remained manageable, but then came the crucial score, a goal from Ciarán O’Brien after Brady had produced a fabulous, diving intervention - it was extremely hard luck on the ’keeper’s part.
And when the same player caused the raising of the Lilies’ 15th white flag, Louth looked a beaten team, seven in arrears and seemingly out of puff.
However, to their credit, they summoned a burst, helped by McCaul, and had the deficit back to three by the time Kildare scored once more. Yet they never looked like engineering the goalscoring opening that was so badly needed. They knocked over a few further minors, of course, as did the visitors, but, at that juncture, a maximum was to be the only source of salvation.
Still, the competition is very much alive. Louth know what they require in Wicklow next week: a win, nothing less being good enough if their Leinster aspirations are to continue burning oil.
Louth: Niall Brady; Aidan Grant, Evan Maher, Ronan McBride; Páraic McKenny, Patrick Murtagh, James McDonnell; Craig Shevlin (0-1), Thomas Rice; Kyle McElroy, Conall McCaul (0-5), Donal Leavy; Ben Collier (0-2), Luke Matthews (0-5, four frees), Tom Gray (0-2)
Subs: Enda O’Neill for McElroy (29), Harry O’Neill for Maher (38), Carl Gillespie (0-1, free) for Rice (44), Fintan Watters for Gray (56), Aaron Crawford for McCaul (59), Pádraig Downey for Leavy (60)
Kildare: Cian Burke; Ryan Comeou, Oisín O’Rourke, Tommy Gill; Mark Maguire, Conan Boran, Jack Quinn; Mikey Spillane (0-1), Shane Flynn (0-3); Aedan Boyle, Adam Conneely (0-3), Ciarán O’Brien (1-2); Eoin Meehan (0-1), Eoin Bagnell (0-3, frees), Aaron Browne (0-5)
Subs: Oisín Milmoe for Meehan (HT), Mikey Delahunty for Spillane (43), Eoin Redmond for Boyle (53), Jimmy O’Neill for Browne (58), Joel Kavanagh for Quinn (60)
Referee: Seamus Farrelly (Dublin)