Louth take on Carlow in Sunday’s Leinster Junior Final in Dr.Cullen Park, in a repeat of last year’s final which was won by the Wee-County by 3:9 to 0:8.
Louth will be aiming to bounce back from defeat to Antrm in the league semi final when they let slip a four point lead deep in stoppage time eventually going down to a five point defeat after extra time. When these counties met in the league in the spring Louth came out on top, after a very competitive opening half in which ended 0:07 each, Louth backed by a strong breeze ran out comfortable winners.
Gerry McGill has transformed the Barrowsiders since his appointment in January. They won their first three matches earning the Donegal native the February manager of the month award. Understandably the performance levels dropped somewhat and they narrowly failed to quality for the league semi finals. McGill is a highly respected manager in ladies football. He guided Dublin to All-Ireland glory in 2010 and has been involved with Tipperary GAA’s teams in recent years.
Having got the league out of the way expect McGill to have his charges ready to give this final a real go. He has some very talented players at his disposal such as Niamh Ford, Lauren Dwyer, Cliodhna Ni She and Nicole Hanley.
Louth manager Darren Bishop will have been bitterly disappointed at how his county’s league hopes were ended. His side produced some terrific football as they won six games in succession to finish top of the table with the best attacking and defensive record in div 4, before that unexpected loss to the Saffron county. That defeat is a harsh reminder that minds must be focused and concentration levels must be maintained. Louth players will have been waiting for the chance to atone for that defeat and have the perfect platform of a Leinster final to show their true form.
Louth will meet a well prepared Carlow side and may need to be patient as the Barrowsiders will be difficult opposition but in attackers Kate Flood, Lauren Boyle and Niamh Rice they have players of tremendous ability. The Byrne sisters Aoife and Eimear form a formidable midfield partnership while Sarah Quinn’s return to her native county has given the backline an assurance previously lacking.
A look back at Louth’s previous Leinster finals
Sunday’s final will be seventh time the counties have met in Championship fare with Louth winning on four occassions with the first meeting in 1993 in what was Louth’s first ever 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 while 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 1996: 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 again lost out to Carlow at the semi-final stage. Twelve months later Louth after impressive wins over Kildare and Offaly took their first in title in impressive fashion by beating Carlow 6-14 to 2–04 in the decider despite being 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 in fine style 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, 0-8,, Sandra Lynch 1-00, Ciara O’Connor 0-3,Susan Byrne, Kate Flood, 0-02,Jenny McGuinness 0-2,
Subs,AnneMarie Murphy 0-3,Lisa Kelly 0-1,Emer Brennan 0-1, Laura O’Neill,0-2, 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 title coming in 2015 when Louth beat Sunday’s openents by 8:17 to 0:07 in the final. Kate Flood who captain’s Louth on Sunday hit 5:06 of her county’s tally on that occasion. In 2016 and 2017 Louth competed in the Intermediate Championship.