Louth's Hugh Osborne and Niall Hughes of Wexford during Saturday evening's O'Byrne Cup clash in Darver. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
O'Byrne Cup round one
Louth 1-6 Wexford 0-16
The new GAA rules got their competitive inter-county bow at Darver on Saturday evening as Louth suffered a comprehensive defeat to Wexford in the O’Byrne Cup.
Wayne Kierans’ side experienced the recently implemented directives during the challenge match against Meath a fortnight ago and the manager put on record his dissatisfaction with them on that occasion.
Indeed, Kierans was perhaps more annoyed with the rule-makers following the loss of his first proper match at the helm.
“I don’t agree with the rules at all and we were done a couple of times with the hand passes,” he said.
“The lads are still not used to the rules and we have to do more work on them, but it’s about learning how to play ‘around’ the rules that’s going to be the issue. We have an awful lot of work to do.”
The ‘hand passes’ he alludes to is the disallowance of more than three fist deliveries in succession, with the emphasis being on moving the ball by foot.
Although Wexford should probably feel more aggrieved at this considering Paul Curtis had a goal chalked off in the first half for that very reason.
Confusion reigned throughout as whistles were sounded mid-play to signal a variety of different ‘attacking’ and ‘defensive’ marks. The referee, Dublin’s David O’Connor, wasn’t overly sure either having firstly allowing Curtis’ three-pointer to stand, before being alerted to the rule breach by his linesman.
A small crowd turned out in miserable conditions for the match, and if the rules are to continue being implemented, attendances are unlikely to take the hikes anticipated. The game is becoming more and more like Australian Rules with every season as revised GAA mandates mount.
“You do need more games to get used to the rules, you’re not going to fix everything on the training pitch. We have an awful lot of work to do.”
Kierans had asked for a performance from his team, placing it above the result in importance terms, though the O’Connell’s clubman was left with neither, he conceded, reckoning his team to have been well below the required levels.
It seemed as though Wexford were quite a bit more comfortable in abiding by the new rules, while their general play was much sharper as they duly perforated gaps in the Wee County’s soft rear-guard.
The early period was even as Conor Branigan, Cian Callan and Tadhg McEnaney (2) registered, but five of the half’s closing six points went the way of Paul McLoughlin’s charges and had it not been for a fine save by debutant ‘keeper Alan McGauley, the lead could have grown further.
“I was a wee bit disappointed in the performance in terms of the intensity shown.
“It’s early days and we’re not terrible because we were beaten today by seven points, the same way as we wouldn’t be brilliant had we won. An improvement next week is required.”
The Ardee, St. Mary’s stopper was one of seven players making their first appearances for Louth. The starting backline included four more with just Hugh Osborne and Darren Marks having prior experience of this level.
Mistakes were thus commonplace as lads found their feet, though the awakening was rude with Wexford’s forwards on song, Curtis and Jonathon Bealin showing a ruthless streak in front of the target.
Such was the pressure that Louth lost Durnin to a black card on the stroke of half-time. Under the much-maligned guidelines, this type of offence is now worthy of a 10 minute sin-bin as opposed to a direct replacement and so Ronan Holcroft suffered the embarrassment of being ushered off having taken his place in the team for the second half.
“We forgot about it at half-time,” Kierans conceded. “We were thinking Tommy was gone on a black card and, obviously, he was only sin-binned.
“It’s another thing to work on. You’re down to 14 men for 10 minutes so you have to get your head around it.
“Perhaps it is (a way of eradicating) the cynical stuff. How long is it going to take to get into lads’ heads that they’re going to be off the field for 10 minutes if they do these type of fouls?”
The second half performance seemed to disappoint the Louth boss most with just 1-1 being added to their interval total.
Sam Mulroy got them off to an ideal start within minutes of the throw-in, capitalising on a woeful misjudgement from Wexford ’keeper Conor Swaine to pick-up the loose ball and convert to the unguarded net.
However, substitute Niall Conlon’s point was the hosts’ last, sandwiched between a myriad of Wexford efforts from a variety of sources, including substitute Cathal Devereux.
“It’s early days, I wouldn’t be too down about it.”
Though Kierans’ body language suggested otherwise.
Louth: Alan McGauley; Hugh Osborne, Daniel Corcoran, Philip Englishby; Leonard Grey, Darren Marks, John Clutterbuck; Tommy Durnin, Conor Early; Conor Branigan (0-1), Cian Callan (0-1), Conall McKeever; Ryan Burns (0-1, mark-kick), Jim McEneaney, Tadhg McEnaney (0-2, frees)
Subs: Sam Mulroy (1-0) for McEnaney (HT), Eoghan Callaghan for Clutterbuck (HT), Anthony Williams for Grey (HT), Rúairí Moore for McKeever (51), Niall Conlon (0-1) for Burns (62), Declan Byrne for Early (62), Bevan Duffy for Marks (63)
Wexford: Conor Swaine; Michael Furlong, Gavin Sheehan, Conor Carty (0-2); Glen Malone, Shane Doyle, Martin O’Connor; Barry O’Connor (0-1), Niall Hughes; Conor Devitt, Jonathan Bealin (0-3, two frees), Kevin O’Grady (0-3, one mark-kick); Paul Curtis (0-2), Donal Shanley (0-1), Michael O’Regan
Subs: Robert Frayne for O’Regan (56), Ben Brosnan (0-1) for Shanley (60), Cathal Devereux (0-3, one free) for Curtis (62), David Shannon for Devitt (63), Seán Barden for O’Connor (70)
Referee: David O’Connor (Dublin)