Louth's Sam Mulroy was a star for the Reds against Offaly at O'Connor Park, Tullamore, this afternoon. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Offaly 2-8 Louth 2-10
Injured marksman Ryan Burns laughed when asked post-match, tongue in cheek, if even he could have picked out the bottom corner of the net like Offaly’s Declan Hogan did on Sunday. What else was there to do, unless you were in the dressing room across the way?
The most dramatic - scarcely believable, almost implausible - finish gifted Louth the points in a match where, again, their discipline was called into question. For the third consecutive outing, they were subject to multiple cards, black and red, playing chunks with 13 players.
But these issues were veiled over in an instance. With Offaly leading 2-8 to 1-10, six minutes into time added on, Louth substitute Ross Nally wrestled possession and hacked the loose leather forward. The hosts had plenty of men on the cover, but, inexplicably, Hogan laced the ball past his own ’keeper: the decisive stroke.
FT - Offaly 2-8 Louth 2-10. Louth win it with the last kick of the ball. Ball broke, Ross Nally breaks onto it, Offaly get on the cover, but Declan Hogan drives the ball to the corner of his own net. Louth, with 13 players, pick up a second win on the bounce. Wow!— Caoimhín Reilly (@CaoimhinReilly) February 10, 2019
It leaves the Division Three table looking rather rosy, Louth sitting third ahead of Sunday week’s clash with pointless Sligo. A win there would ensure survival and offer a platform for potentially more. But talk of promotion isn’t quite on the agenda, instead, it’s the resilience which is fast becoming a trademark of this team.
Two men down against Longford, they hung in; against the odds versus Laois, they blazed a trail; a pair in arrears, trailing on the scoreboard and time up, Louth, somehow, won in Offaly. Credit is due, especially given the mitigating factors, namely playing into a gale-force breeze in the first half and with manager Kierans absent from the touchline through suspension.
“There was a very strong wind and kicking against it in the first half, I thought we did alright,” said man-of-the-match Sam Mulroy, a scorer of six points.
“Playing with it wasn’t easy either, conditions were bad, but we’ve got the result.
“We shouldn’t have conceded the goals. We wanted to ‘shut up shop’ in the first half, see the game out until half-time and play with the breeze after that. But these things happen and we had to be resilient and have the mental strength to come back.”
Five down at the interval, 2-5 to 1-3, and three behind on 70 minutes, Louth’s cause looked forlorn, with Conor Early’s dismissal and James Craven’s black card - which followed Declan Byrne’s harsh 10-minute ‘binning’ earlier in the game - leaving the Reds severely handicapped.
Byrne and Craven can feel ‘hard done by’ to a degree, but losing Early has been a recurring trend. The Oliver Plunkett’s man was black carded and later saw red against Longford, before being sin-binned at Croke Park last week. A strike saw him given a direct marching order here, meaning a suspension is imminent.
44' - Louth down to 14 players. Conor Early straight red card... to follow the black and red he got against Longford and the black he got against Laois.— Caoimhín Reilly (@CaoimhinReilly) February 10, 2019
However, Louth selector Liam Kelleher is inclined to give his charges the benefit of the doubt, despite discussing their discipline.
“We have spoken to the players on a couple of occasions regarding it (discipline). We don’t send them out to get sent off,” he said.
“I don’t think there is a discipline issue in the squad, maybe some young lads are a little over-eager and retaliate a little bit quicker. It’s something that over the next couple of months and years, as they get more experience, they may be a little bit more reluctant to retaliate.
“If you watch the three matches and a couple of the situations, we maybe haven’t always got the decisions we deserve.”
Kelleher added: “When everyone was talking about the three handpass rule, I kept raising the sin-bin. That is the most devious rule of the lot because you’re down to 14 men for 10 minutes; that’s critical.
“It’s harsh, you must remember that the adrenaline is pumping in these lads during a game and sometimes I think the referees can go a little bit too harsh.
“We’ll have to address those discipline issues, address not speaking back to referees, but, overall, I’m certainly not going to give out to our lads about their performances in matches.”
As music blared from the Louth changing area, Offaly’s stood still. Indeed, it took them a long while to emerge, and when they did, the mood was of the sheepish variety.
Losing this affair, having had numerous chances to kill it off, will sting for a while to come. Anton Sullivan’s 23rd minute goal had them 1-2 to two in front - Bernard Allen and Mulroy having traded frees - and while Ciarán Downey’s three-pointer, at the end of a fabulous move involving Mulroy and Conall McKeever, gave Louth hope, backed by the gust, Shane Horan struck for major number two on the eve of the break.
And the gap was widened to six following Early’s departure.
Though Louth battled and as the bluster mounted in their favour, found a way back, points from Mulroy (2), Tommy Durnin (2), Rúairí Moore and Eoghan Duffy bringing them to within one deep into injury time.
Then: carnage for the Faithful, ecstasy, borderline embarrassment, within the visiting ranks.
GGGGGGGGGGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!— Caoimhín Reilly (@CaoimhinReilly) February 10, 2019
Midlands mission complete.
Offaly: Paddy Dunican; Declan Hogan (1-0, own goal), Eoin Rigney, David Dempsey; Joseph O’Connor, Paul McConway, Cian Donohoe; Cathal Mangan, Johnny Moloney; Shane Horan (1-0), Peter Cunningham (0-2, frees), Niall Darby (0-1); Bernard Allen (0-5, three frees), Anton Sullivan (1-0), Rúairí McNamee
Subs: Niall McNamee for Rúairí McNamee (54), Eoin Carroll for Donohoe (59), Dan Molloy for Mangan (64), Aaron Leavy for Moloney (74)
Louth: Fergal Sheekey; Fergal Donohoe, Emmet Carolan, James Craven; Anthony Williams, Bevan Duffy, John Clutterbuck; Tommy Durnin (0-2, one free), Conor Early; Conor Branigan, Ciarán Downey (1-0), Conall McKeever; Andy McDonnell, Sam Mulroy (0-6, four frees & 45’), Declan Byrne
Subs: Eoghan Duffy (0-1) for McDonnell (56), Jim McEneaney for Downey (59), Ross Nally for Byrne (62), James Califf for Branigan (63), Rúairí Moore (0-1) for McKeever (72)
Referee: James Bermingham (Cork)