Louth's Aoife Byrne in action against Kilkenny in Stabannon on Sunday afternoon. (Pic: Warren Matthews)
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Louth 8-26 Kilkenny 0-3
Louth cruised to victory over an understrength Kilkenny in a windy Stabannon on Sunday afternoon.
And, in doing so they recorded their highest ever tally of 8-26 in a competitive fixture.
The visitors could only call on 13 players due to injuries and other commitments to make the trip with Louth manager Darren Bishop agreeing to play just 13 players of his own in a sporting gesture.
The Louth management of Bishop, Brigid Russell and David Shevlin took the opportunity to give some of the fringe players a chance and on this performance there appears to be a real depth of talent in the squad with 18 different players contributing scores.
Showing seven changes from the team that lost to Limerick a week earlier, Emily Norton set the tone as she landed a point inside the first minute, while Aoife Byrne, Susan Byrne and Jennifer McGuinness were all on target before Norton got Louth’s first goal in the 10th minute, as she pounced on a poor clearance to fire past Niamh Sheehy, 1-4 to no-score.
Kate Flood and Niamh Rice almost added to the tally as both players were most unfortunate to see their efforts kept out by the woodwork.
Further points from Flood and Eimear Byrne extended the lead before, in a rare attack, Kilkenny had their first score midway through the half from an Elizabeth O’Shea free.
O’Shea and Susan Byrne then swapped points before Shannen McLoughlin ventured forward to finish off some good team play by hammering the ball to the net, a sweet moment for the Clan na Gael star, getting her first goal for the county. The scores kept coming with Rice, Flood and a further 1-1 from McGuinness leaving Louth well placed at the break, leading 3-10 to 0-3.
Backed by the strong breeze, the home side were again quickly into their stride after the break and notched a further 3-4, with Eimear Byrne, Norton, Deirbhile Osborne and sub Leanne Sharkey all hitting points and goals from Niamh Rice (2) and Sharkey extending the Reds’ lead to 6-14 to 0-3 by the 38th minute.
Louth continued to dominate and added further goals as Grainne Murray saw her fine strike nestle in the corner of the net and and another debutante, Rachel McNally, also struck a three-pointer.
While reluctant to single out individuals, Louth manager Darren Bishop will be very pleased with the showing of his charges with Naomh Fionnbarra star Osborne, who missed most of last season with a serious leg injury, marking her return to the county side with two well taken points. The game also saw Foxrock/Cabinteely defender and former London player Sarah Quinn make a welcome return to the red jersey
The Cooley native was making her first appearance for Louth since the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Wicklow.
“It was a very one sided contest in relation to the scoreboard; however, you have to give serious credit to Kilkenny for the spirit they showed throughout the entire game,” said Bishop.
“I would be pleased with how we played the last 15 minutes before half-time. Kilkenny were defensive and we were patient and took our chances when the opportunity arose.
“I’m very pleased with the subs who came on just after half-time, they showed great awareness of the game and were very willing to press on and get on the scoreboard, notching up 2-11 from play in 20 minutes
“I won’t name any players in relation to stand out performances as it would be too difficult to single any one or two players out. Collectively, as a team, they are starting to click and work as one which is good,” he added.
Louth: Alannah Finn; Shannen McLoughlin (1-0), Sarah Quinn; Deirbhile Osborne (0-2); Michelle McMahon (0-2), Grainne Murray (1-0); Eimear Byrne (0-2), Aoife Byrne (0-1); Emily Norton (1-2), Susan Byrne (0-2), Jenny McGuinness (1-1); Niamh Rice (2-1), Kate Flood (0-2)
Subs: Shayleen McDonagh, Alannah McLoughlin (0-3), Aisling O’Doherty (0-1), Leanne Sharkey (1-1), Rachel McNally (1-2), Ciara Woods (0-2), Grace Traynor (0-1), Amy McNally (0-1), Sinead Woods, Una Pearson, Eilis Hand, Ceire Nolan, Aoife Russell, Rebecca Carr, Lauren Boyle