While Louth will be slight favourites to beat Carlow in Sunday’s Leinster Final in Dr.Cullen Park, it is certain to be a much closer contest than when these two counties last met in the provincial decider of 2015. On that occasion the Wee County ran out convincing winners on a 8-17 to 0-07 scoreline with Kate Flood who captains Louth on Sunday in top form hitting 5-06 of the Reds total. In this years NFL Louth won five of their seven games to earn a place in the final against Wicklow, but on that occasion a below par Louth were well beaten by a very impressive Wicklow outfit.
The Louth team have had a few difficult weeks after the sudden and unexpected passing of their senior team manager Micheal McKeown. Micheal was the fulcrum of the success the ladies have had this year in reaching the Division 4 national league final for the first time in the Counties history. He also guided the girls to next weeks Leinster Junior Final.
Words can hardly describe what he has meant to these girls and in these difficult circumstances the girls have prepared as best as they can. Training has been going well under new manager Darren Bishop. The team currently have a long list of injuries and Darren has drafted in some minors to boost the squad. Several key players will miss out on the day due to these injuries however Darren has promised that the 15 players that take the field and the subs that are used will certainly do the memory of Micheal McKeown well. In the last few weeks Racheal Kane, Derabhile Osbourne and Kate Flood have picked up injuries that will leave it very tight for the girls playing in the final.
With all of this going on Darren has said that the mood in the camp is very positive and upbeat and he believes the girls are ready for the battle which is going to take place on Sunday in Carlow. The two teams played during the league with the Louth winning by 2-09 to 1-06 in Darver and Darren was quick to point out that it will have little or no bearing on the final.
“Carlow where missing some key players that day so I’m under no illusion of the task that is at hand. Carlow have some fine players who have worked very hard all year and where very unlucky to miss out on a spot in the league final.” Finally, Darren explained to us that he is really looking forward to the day and that the girls will go out and do themselves justice with a positive and honest performance and hopes that things will go their way in winning the Leinster Junior Title.
With a Div 1 League semi-final and the Div 2 final both taking place on Sunday last the management would have had an anxious few hours hoping that no new injury concerns would emerge as quite a number of the panel were on club duty. Carlow with Bart Martin in his second year in charge have a nice mixture of youth and experience. They had recent successful U/14 and U/16 teams under Martin reaching provincial finals at both levels in 2015 and ’16. He has formed the basis of the current side with members of those under age sides combined with some of the more long serving players. Training has gone well with 46 sessions taking place since January despite some some very bad weather. Carlow had a decent League campaign just narrowly missing out on a semi-final place. While Louth have dominated recent meetings, Carlow will take confidence from last year’s clash in the league where they had an impressive 5-7 to 2-9 win over the Reds, and with players such as Aiveen Gilmartin, Anne Roche, Muireann O’Sullivan and Marie Kinsella in their ranks they are sure to push a Louth side who will be keen to put the disappointment of that League final defeat behind them.
The Louth team in the 2015 provincial final was;
Una Pearson, Janine Kelly, Michelle McMahon, Aoife Halligan, Eimear Murray, Emma Singleton, Orla Brennan, Grace Lynch, Ciara Nugent, Paula Murray; 1-04, Susan Byrne ,2-02, Alanna Conlon,0-01, Kate Flood, 5-06, Ciara O’Connor, 0-02,Laura Collins, 0-02 Subs used: Sarah Maguire 0-01, Emily Norton, Maura Sullivan, Broonagh McGrane, Laura Grills. Unused subs: Alanna Finn, Amy McNally, Lisa Finglas, Aine Lynch, Aine Breen, Christine Carolan, Sinead O’Hagan, Shauna Markey, Katie Anne Holcroft.
Louth went on to take the All-Ireland title for a second time a few months later beating Scotland who were captained by ex Roche Emmetts star Roseanna Heaney in the final played at Croke Park.
Sunday’s final will be sixth time the counties have met in Championship fare with both sides winning on three occasions with the first meeting in 1993 in what was Louth’s first Championship match since the formation of the County Board the previous November. Having lost to Carlow in their first ever NFL match in Dowdallshill, Louth also tasted defeat to Carlow in the Junior Championship. Twelve months later, Carlow also got the better of Louth in Castlebellingham on a 3-12 to 2-06 scoreline. It was a similar story in ’95 as Carlow made it three wins in as many year’s as they again ended Louth’s Championship hopes
In 1996, Louth reached their first provincial final with a victory over Offaly and a first ever win over Carlow in the semi-final but lost to Longford by 2-15 to 4-02 in the Leinster decider.
Louth: Laura Cunningham, Pamela Kirwan, Elaine Rogan, Ann Mulligan, Sharon Drumgoole, Edel McKeown, Joan McCarragher, Linda Finnegan, 2-01, Fiona Sweeney,(Capt) Karen Connor, Orlaith Kirk, 0-01,Julie Fitzpatrick, Sinead Mulligan,1-00, Amanda Brennan, Suzane Robinson
The following season after a poor League campaign they lost out to Carlow at the semi-final stages.
Twelve months later Louth, after impressive wins over Kildare and Offaly, took their first Leinster title in impressive fashion by beating Carlow 6-14 to 2-04 in the decider despite lining out without star duo Karen Connor and Orlaith Kirk and losing key attacker Sharon Drumgoole with a head injury early in the game. Roisin Hanlon was voted player of the match and contributed 2-5 of her County’s tally
Louth; Lyn Savage, AnneMarie King, Fiona Sweeney, Amanda Brennan, Ciara Rafferty, Edel McKeown, Jenny Agnew, Loraine Muckian, Elaine Rogan, 1-04, Nuala Murphy 2-00, Cathy Reynolds (Capt) 0-01, Sharon Drumgoole, Caroline Lynch 1-02, Roisin Hanlon 2-05, Karen Fealey. Subs: Claie Mullholand, 0-01, Emma Kirk, Majella Agnew, Jennifer Mulligan, Karen Rafferty, Joanne Fedigan, Orlaith Kirk, Karen Connor
2008 saw Louth back in the final after a decade competing in the Senior and Intermediate grade. That season Louth were under the management of Ardee man Brian Carroll and Teresa Hanratty lost out to a strong Wicklow outfit by 5-8 to 0-17 after a tremendous final.
They also lost the ’09 (Replay) and ’10 final’s to the Garden County.
Louth next appearance in the Leinster final was in 2012 where under the guidance of former Mattock Rangers star John Hanratty. They beat a fancied Offaly by 1-22 to 2-06 inspired by a brilliant display by player of the match Vikki McGinn.
Louth; Una Pearson, AnnMarie Lynch, Andrea Carney, Aine McGee,(Capt) Patricia Marmion, Grace Lynch,0-1, Vikki McGinn,
Roseanna Heaney, 0-08,, Sandra Lynch 1-00, Ciara O’Connor 0-03,Susan Byrne, Kate Flood, 0-02,Jenny McGuinness 0-02,
Subs used, AnneMarie Murphy 0-3,Lisa Kelly 0-1,Emer Brennan 0-1, Laura O’Neill,0-02, Maura Lynch.
The following year saw Louth lose to Wexford in the semi-final, while they also lost out in the 2014 final by 0-14 to 0-10 to the Slaneysiders with their third and latest Leinster title coming in 2015. In 2016 and 2017 Louth competed in the Intermediate Championship. They were demoted to the Junior grade after losing to Offaly after a relegation play-off in Mullingar last year.
Preview by Dermot Woods