All Ireland Junior Championship Semi-Final. Louth v Derry, Sunday 26th August, 1pm in Aughnacloy.
It was always a strong possibility that Louth and Derry were going to be involved at the business end of this year’s championship with Derry very unlucky to lose out to Fermanagh after a replay in last year’s All Ireland final, in the drawn game Derry led by nine points at one stage, and Louth had a very solid league campaign reaching this season’s Div 4 final.
Both counties were impressive in their respective provincial finals with Derry beating a fancied Antrim by seven points and Louth convincing winners over Carlow. In the round robin series, the northern side lost their opening game to Carlow but caused a major upset by beating Limerick in their next outing. This win coupled with Limerick’s big win over Carlow ensured the Oak Leaf county a place in the last four.
Louth in contrast had big wins over Antrim and Kilkenny before concluding the group phase with a hard earned win over London
Sunday’s game gets underway at 1pm in Aughnacloy, with the prize for the winner a place in the September 16th final against either London or Limerick in Croke Park.
This will be only the second time the counties have met in the championship with Louth coming out on top by 3-10 to 2-10 at the same stage in 2010. Louth have just one survivor from that encounter in Emyvale, current captain Kate Flood who hit 2-00 that day.
Louth manager Darren Bishop has a number of injury concerns going into Sunday’s game as his players have had an extremely hectic few weeks with both club and county. Rebecca Carr returned to the team as a sub in London and played the full match for her club Geraldines in their Championship win over St. Mochtas on Thursday night and contributed an impressive 3-4 as the Haggardstown side booked their place in the semi finals.
The sides met in the National League in February, with Louth emerging winners on a 3-13 to 1-9 scoreline with Kate Flood hitting1-4 of Louth’s total.
Darren Bishop has built on the solid foundations laid by Miceal McKeown with the current panel possesing some very promising young players with the exciting Cooley Kickhams duo of Niamh Rice and Lauren Boyle who both played minor football this year have been a real threat to opposeing defenses with Boyle whose uncle Michael was one of the stars of the great Cooley teams of the 1970’s the team’s top scorer this year
Fellow teenagers Aoife Russell and Ceire Nolan have added power and pace and a further scoring threat.
At the other end of the age spectrum Stabannon star Jenni McGuinness has returned to county duty after an absence of four seasons and Bonnie Fleming’s addition after a serious knee injury gives the management team more options upfront
Bishop and his management team will have been pleased to hear of midfielder Rebecca Carr’s return to fitness although the current midfield pairing of Sinead Woods and Eimear Byrne have been exceptional in the All-Ireland series to date.
In defence Michelle McMahon another player who has battled back after serious injury is getting back to her best alongside the ever dependable Eimear Murray.
Derry under the management of Paul Crozier whose brother paddy was assistant manager of Louth when Colin Kelly was in charge have some exceptional players to call on with Ex-Tipperary star Caith Glass and Anna Morrision among the grade’s best defenders along with Katie Holly whose brother Niall lined out with Derry in this year’s Ulster Championship as well as key attacker Deirbhaille McNicholl whose father Dermot was a leading forward on the Oak leaf which won the Sam Maguire Cup by beating Cork in 1993.
In what is expected to closely fought contest, Louth have done all that has been asked of them in this campaign and would appear to possess the greater attacking threat and can qualify for a fourth final appearance in GAA Headquarters in eighth years