Louth's Tom Jackson is watched by Clive Keena of Offaly during today's Leinster U20 Championship opener in Dunleer. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Leinster U20 Championship
Louth 0-9 Offaly 2-6
The record still stands - Louth are yet to win a championship match at U20 level, after three years.
And of all the four outings in that time, failure to prevail here is likely the hardest to stomach given The Reds dominated the affair possession-wise. But the concession of two slack goals, either side of half-time, proved hugely significant in the overall context of a game played in harsh conditions.
Had Daniel Corcoran and Liam Jackson been made available by the senior management, the outcome may have been different, though Offaly, you can be guaranteed, didn’t field a full complement either. The simple fact is that Louth had enough of this game to win - that they didn’t was of their own making.
A stiff breeze whirled into the road-end goals of Páirc Uí Mhuiri and, ruefully, Aidan Shevlin’s charges failed to capitalise during the opening half, scoring a mere six points, whereas The Faithful managed 1-5 after the break.
Seán Courtney, Offaly’s Bomberesque full-forward, bagged the match’s only majors. Louth had been in total control, opening with three points to no-reply, when a brisk move by the Midlanders caught the home backline cold, Courtney taking possession on the way to goal before directing Martin McEneaney the wrong way.
Having had all of the play, it took The Reds some time to recover their composure from the body blow, with five of their 10 wides overall coming over a wasteful spell prior to Carl Gillespie, who gave an impressive individual account, establishing a two-point advantage at the halfway juncture, 0-6 to 1-1.
So sharp was the Ardee man that it was a major surprise to see his withdrawal towards the close, at a time where Louth were in need of a clinical presence in front of the target.
Clearly, Offaly held pole position at the turnaround, considering the gust and their more cohesive play, though The Wee County resumed positively, with Gillespie extending the gap from a free.
However, by the time Louth would next score, Gillespie adding just the team’s third point from play, their hopes of victory had faded extremely, Courtney’s second goal, a flick of a hopeful punt, deflating the home outfit’s challenge.
Aaron Kellaghan, son of former Offaly star Pascal, subsequently put The Faithful ahead and when Cathal Flynn followed it, the gap was two and Louth were staring at a hapless exit.
Yet they summoned a late push, albeit lacking the sort of ingenuity required to truly threaten Offaly’s position of command. Powerful runners were needed and the directness of Craig Lennon, with Ciarán Keenan, brought life to Louth’s play, which poses an obvious question: Why was the St. Mochta’s man not introduced much, much earlier?
It’s just one of many, all too familiar talking points.
Louth: Martin McEneaney (St. Patrick’s); Donal McKenny (Ardee St. Mary’s), Peter Lynch (Roche Emmets), Bobby Butterly (Stabannon Parnells); Alan Connor (Newtown Blues), Ciarán Murphy (St. Patrick’s), Tom Jackson (Ardee St. Mary’s); Conor Quigley (Kilkerley Emmets), Evan Whelan (Naomh Máirtín); Dáire Nally (Newtown Blues), Ciarán Keenan (0-1, free; Ardee St. Mary’s), Conall McCaul (St. Joseph’s); Carl Gillespie (Ardee St. Mary’s; 0-6, one mark & two frees), Glen Stewart (Roche Emmets), Luke Matthews (0-2, one free; Ardee St. Mary’s)
Subs: Seán Healy (Naomh Máirtín) for Quigley (HT), Ben Collier (St. Joseph’s) for Whelan (40), Craig Lennon (St. Mochta’s) for Gillespie (56), Craig Shevlin (Dreadnots) for Lynch (58), Darragh Malone (Lannléire) for McCaul
Offaly: Seán O’Toole; Fionn Dempsey, Adam Bolger, Clive Keena; Lee Pearson, Aidan Bracken, Aaron Brazil; Bill Carroll, Cathal Donoghue; Cathal Flynn (0-1), Cormac Delaney (0-1), Kevin McDermott; Mikey Cunningham (0-1), Seán Courtney (2-0), Aaron Kellaghan (0-3, one free)
Sub: Seán Flynn for Delaney (49)
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin)