Update 16/3/19 12:00: MATCH CALLED OFF.
Louth can take a significant step towards securing a National League semi-final place on Saturday when they take on fellow promotion chasers Fermanagh in Tullyallen. It was hoped the match would be played at Páirc Clan na Gael, but that intention fell through late last week with the home of Glen Emmets now hosting the game which has a 2:00pm starting time.
It will be the third meeting between the counties in as many years with the Erne county coming out on top on each occasion. Last year Louth traveled to a wintry Derrygonnelly and went down to a 3-10 to 2-05 defeat while twelve months earlier Fermanagh won a high scoring encounter by 6-09 to 5-08. The Ecco Road setting would have provided the three Clans players on the panel with a match on home turf, something which Shannen McLaughlin, now a mainstay of the Wee County full-back line, admits would have been “great”.
McLaughlin was a ‘sole ranger’ on the Louth team that reached last year’s All-Ireland junior final, having been the only Clans player involved, although that tally has been supplemented by Ciara Woods and Shannen’s sister, Alannah, in 2019.
Following the late postponement of the round four clash with Carlow last Sunday week, Louth approach their latest encounter seeking to add to their two wins from three outings. Indeed, a victory would lift them into the division’s top-four. But despite sitting outside semi-final territory (fifth), the camp are ultra-positive, with recent squad additions, including the aforementioned pair, creating huge competition for places, McLaughlin concedes.
“There are completely different vibes about the whole set-up. Training is going really well and there is huge competition for places.
“Darren has kept most of the panel from last year and brought in some new girls, the like of Rachel McNally, Susan Byrne is back and Ciara Woods. They’ve all come in and had an impact.
“We’re a really close-knit group, but the girls that have come into the set-up have slipped right in and Darren has brought an element of professionalism too; everything is done to the highest level. We just have to keep pushing in the right direction and if we perform to our best (this weekend) I think we’ll have no problem, because we’ve huge ability in our team.”
The Erne County inflicted just one of two league losses on Louth last year, before the Reds came up short against Wicklow in the Division Four final. McLaughlin played in that encounter, one which she remembers for reasons other than the result. “It was an absolutely dreadful day where it snowed pretty heavily. I remember at one stage not being able to see the ball because the snow was so heavy. I presume Fermanagh have many different girls this year so we’ll play the game at hand and not worry about last year. We can’t change that, we can only control this game, and we’ll look towards writing that wrong.”
Games between these two are normally close, exciting and high scoring and with both teams in need of a win Saturday’s game is expected to be another tight affair. Fermanagh under former Tyrone manager and Fintina club man Johnnie McGarrity have had a poor start this season but showed their they are coming back to form with a hugely impressive win over Leitrim a fortnight ago.
Despite going down to a point defeat, there was still plenty to admire about the Louth performance in Limerick in their opening fixture and they followed that with a facile win over Killkenny. In their third outing they had to dig deep to see off a strong Leitrim side by five points. Indeed the Connacht side could have been much closer had they converted some of the many chances they created. The Wee county will need to be at their best to get the important points against what is certain to be a very determined Fermanagh side.
In the meeting between the sides two years ago in Haggardstown it looked odds on that Louth were heading to a big defeat as they trailed by 5-05 to 1-03 at the interval. But a strong comeback including scores from substitute Kate Flood, Rebecca Carr, Susan Byrne and Aoife Byrne, and a disallowed goal resulted in a two point win for Fermanagh, 6-09 to 5-08.
The Louth team that day was; Alannah Finn, Eimear Murray, Derbhila O’Connor, Amy Dalton, Kathy O’Reilly, Sara Moore, Aoife Halligan, Aoife Byrne 0-01, Rebecca Carr 0-03, Sinead Woods, Susan Byrne 4-00, Ann Marie Murphy 1-00, Aimee McNally 0-01
Subs, Kate Flood 0-03, Coirin Rice, Aoife Gregory, Andrea Lennon, Tracey Rogers, Catherine McGlew, Christine Carolan, Katie Moore.
By Dermot Woods.