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04 Dec 2021

Forget #NewbridgeorNowhere, who remembers Louth's DroghedaorNowhere threat?

Inside Track

Forget #NewbridgeorNowhere, who remembers Louth's DroghedaorNowhere threat?

Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)

Everything's going Kildare's way right now. Having won the battle with Croke Park over the choice of venue for last Saturday evening's All-Ireland qualifier, the Lilies turned in what was arguably their best championship performance in years, beating last year's All-Ireland runners-up, Mayo. 

Now they're just one game away from making the Super 8, the draw for which, made yesterday morning, hasn't set them the most difficult of tasks.

And to think heads were being called for in the short grass county following the May 27 Leinster Championship loss to Carlow. This was an eighth successive defeat following a winless league campaign, and manager, Cian O'Neill, just had to be feeling the pressure.

Now O'Neill is being hailed a hero, not only for fashioning three wins in the qualifiers, but also for the manner in which he fronted the campaign to have Saturday's game played at Newbridge and not shifted to Croke Park as the authorities had wanted. The tight St. Conleth's pitch was more to Kildare's liking, playing against a Mayo team that may have been more mentally than physically fatigued.

The fight to have the game played on Kildare soil was a reminder of what happened here 30 years ago. Louth were drawn at home to play Meath in the championship, and because the Royals were not only defending their provincial title, but also going for a second successive All-Ireland, the Leinster Council were anxious to have the game shifted to Croke Park. 

All sorts of inducements were thrown in front of Louth, but the County Board, led by Paddy McGlew, weren't for shifting - the game is going ahead at the Gaelic Grounds, they insisted.

It went ahead there alright, but not until a fence had been erected between the pitch and the sideline seating which was in place at the time. This was done on the Leinster Council's instructions and cost in the region of £12,000. Whether or not it was meant as a temporary structure, the fence was dismantled within months, maybe even sooner.

Louth went into the match with reasonable expectations. The previous league campaign had been good, promotion from Division Three qualifying the Frank Lynch-coached side for a quarter-final meeting with Meath at Croke Park. This was a close-run thing, Louth leading by 0-6 to 0-4 at the break before succumbing to a late flurry of Meath points. It ended 1-9 to 0-8.

But maybe Louth had declared their hand that day. Meath came to Drogheda prepared for a stiff examination, and looked as if they might get it when Louth went into a 0-3 to 0-1. But the All-Ireland champions' strength began to show, and untroubled, they went on to win by 3-13 to 0-9. 

For the record, the Louth team: Niall O'Donnell; Peter Fitzpatrick, Kevin O'Hanlon, Pat Matthews; Dessie Callaghan, Martin McCann, Stephen Melia; Gerry Curran, Seamus O'Hanlon; Jim McDonnell, Paul Renaghan, Brendan Kerin; Johnny McDonnell, Richie Culhane, Kevin Dawe

Subs: John Osborne, Eugene Judge, David Staunton

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