Louth captain Sam Mulroy Picture: Sportsfile
Louth 3-18 Sligo 1-14
Patrick Flaherty in Haggardstown
For the second week in a row Louth trailed at the break, for the second week in a row they came out of the dressing rooms and put on a stunning performance that blew away their opposition and left the final result known to all with 15 minutes to play.
It was much easier to predict the Louth win last weekend, for large periods of the first half they had took the game to their hosts and it was clear they were well capable of coming from behind and leaving with a win.
Signs of that sort were harder to spot on Sunday, not only were Sligo well deserving of their lead but in all reality they probably should have been further in front, a late comeback seeing the Wee County trail by just a goal at half time.
Immediately after the first half break, Louth struck a goal though the in-form Sam Mulroy and from there they never looked back, keeping the Westerners unable to even create chances, never mind score them for prolonged periods while the home side hit 3-9, 3-6 from play to turn a three-point deficit into a ten point win.
The Wee County had a stiff breeze backing them up in the opening half, however it was the men in Black and White that got the opening point, Keelan Cawley with a fine effort from play inside the first 60 seconds of action.
Tony McEntee had his side well drilled and they were willing to be patient, going through the phases, passing short or long, coupled with a clinical edge to their play they started the game very well, not registering a wide until 21 minutes in having scored from their first six ventures forward.
Their build up play was seen in perfect fashion as an impressive team move ended with corner forward Nathan Rooney doubling their lead on three minutes.
Louth with the advantage of the wind tended to move the ball quick, utilising the long ball route to get it into their in-form forwards as quickly as possible, however they took on many ambitious efforts and had recorded three wides before the fifth minute, from Mulroy and Conor Grimes.
The wind did factor into the Wee County’s opener, Bevan Duffy creating some space before firing one over the posts from at least 45 meters out, but unfortunately the wides kept coming with Mulroy and Ciaran Byrne missing the target from range.
Another characteristic of the Sligo play was extreme pace, seen to great effect by Paddy O’Connor, who duly bolted down the left wing, winning a free which was slotted over from a very tough angle by Niall Murphy to regain their two-point advantage.
The first significant gap came on 13 minutes, Mickey Gordon doing well to beat his marker in the corner before duly blasting it home past Craig Lynch in the Louth net to go 1-3 to 0-1 in front.
Louth were struggling to create chances anywhere near goal, the Yeats County pushing up hard on them to make sure they could only shoot from range, yet once more it was former captain Duffy that stepped up to the plate with a score from distance.
At the first half water break, the men from the west were in full control of the game, leading 1-5 to 0-3, they had taken over the midfield battle, looked more physical and fitter then their opponents, yet the key factor remained their clinical edge as unlike their hosts every chance created lead to scores.
The tie was a de facto knockout contest, where the winner was just one game away from promotion and this lead to some big tackles from both sides as they knew how important it was to get out of Division Four.
In a six-minute spell there was three black cards shown by Antrim referee Sean Laverty, Sligo full back Eddie McGuinness was sent to the bin on 24 minutes for a cynical foul on Ciaran Keenan, but Louth’s numerical advantage lasted just two minutes when Anthony Williams was carded for a foul on Sean Carrabine.
Duffy was a significant loss for the Wee County on 31 minutes, his late tackle on Cawley seeing him leave the field for the rest of the half.
The stoppages in play sapped some of Sligo’s momentum and Louth began to get more into the game, they started to find their men easier and crucially began to hit the target once more.
Late scores from Liam Jackson, Mulroy, and a brace from Ciaran Byrne late in half were cancelled out by just a single point from Sligo in injury time, meaning despite being outclassed for so long they went into the break just 1-9 to 0-9 behind.
In his long career as a manager, Mickey Harte has had to give many motivating team talks and just like a week earlier whatever sort of speech he is delivering, it’s certainly working a treat.
From the throw in, Louth won possession before their captain soloed at pace through the heart of the Sligo defence, only stopping to blast home a vital goal via a deflection that brought the sides level for the first time since Sligo pointed in the first minute.
They were like a different animal in the second half, in attack there was machine like efficiency while defensively they were rock solid, making huge tackles, reading any ball that Sligo dared to lump in long resulting in the visitors going without a score for 17 minutes.
In that spell they hit a glorious 2-4 from play without reply to effectively bag their place in the league semi-finals before the second water break, keeping McEntee’s troops to just a single shot at the posts in a nightmare period for the Westerners.
Their second goal came on 44 minutes, Conor Grimes winning a throw in close to goal, then duly teeing up Mulroy with the St Martins clubman taking no prisoners as he buried it home with ease.
The decisive third goal came six minutes later, Mulroy winning a high ball before turning provider this time and handpassing it into the path of Ciaran Keenan who muscled through the tackle of Evan Lyons to open up a nine point cushion.
Discipline continued to be a factor for Sligo, who went on to have Niall Murphy black carded, while late in the game McGuinnes was sent to the side lines for a second time in the game having picked up a yellow card to add to his earlier black one.
Like last week the game was little more than a challenge match in the final quarter, but Declan Byrne did show Harte a few reasons why he should be in the mix for a starting place with three fine efforts from placed balls late on as Louth ran out emphatic ten-point winners.
2-7, 0-12 and now 2-13 have been hit from play by a Louth team that is clearly growing in confidence; now they are just one game, an away tie against Carlow in two weeks’ time from bagging a place in Division Three for 2022. Can they keep up this scoring power?
Louth: Craig Lynch; Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, Donal McKenny; Emmet Carolan, Anthony Williams, Eoghan Callaghan (0-01); Bevan Duffy (0-03), Ciarán Byrne (0-03); Liam Jackson (0-01), Sam Mulroy (2-03, 0-02f), Ciaran Downey (0-01); Ciarán Keenan (1-02), Conor Grimes (0-01), Ryan Burns.
Subs used: Niall Sharkey for Williams (35+4), Seán Marry for Burns (HT), Declan Byrne (0-03f) for Duffy (55), Conall McKeever for Jackson (62) Eoghan Duffy for Downey (67).
Sligo: Eamonn Kilgannon (0-01f); Ryan Feehily, Eddie McGuinness, Evan Lyons; Keelan Cawley (0-01), Darragh Cummins, Paul McNamara; Paddy O’Connor, Paul Kilcoyne; Conor Griffin, Sean Carrabine (0-04, 0-02f), Mikey Gordon (1-01); Nathan Rooney (0-01), Niall Murphy (0-04, 0-02f), Cian Lally.
Subs used: Red Óg Murphy for Rooney (19), Cian Breheny for O’Connor (46), Barry Gorman (0-01) for Lally (50), Sean Power for Gordon (50), Peter Naughton (0-01, 0-01f) for Griffin (55), Peter Laffey for Cummins (65), Nathan Mullen for Feehily (65).
Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim)
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