Following an opening round defeat at the hands of Limerick, Louth made it three wins in a row after this impressive victory over fellow promotion chasers Antrim on Sunday afternoon.
Darren Bishop has used pre-season friendlies and the early stages of the League to evolve his team’s style of play after the disappointment of of losing out in the 2018 League and All-Ireland finals. A more positive possession based approach has been developing and it was again evident in a bitterly cold Cooley on Sunday afternoon.
Driven by a strong midfield pairing of Michelle McMahon and Eimear Byrne and the inspirational attacking duo of Niamh Rice and Lauren Boyle, Louth attacked the visitors with energy and vigour from the outset and were ahead within ninety seconds courtesy of a Niamh Rice free.
In the aftermath Antrim keeper Anna McCann’s kick out was adjudged to be too short by match referree David Hurson. Susan Byrne’s quick thinking caught them cold and the St.Kevins star quickly floated the ball over McCann and into the net to give her side an early 1-01 to 0-00 lead. Eimear Byrne extended Louth’s advantage with a well taken point after ten minutes as Antrim struggled to get into opposition territory. Louth went 1-4 to 0-00 in front in the 17th minute with Lauren Boyle twice on target, the first a brilliant angled effort and the second from a free.
The Reds stretched their lead further with Rice (2) and Sinead Woods making it eight scores without reply. The Saffron county already facing a difficult task were then dealt a further blow as Una Pearson’s kick out was superbly won by Niamh Rice around the middle of the field and the pacey full forward playing on her home pitch went on a sensational run through the Antrim backline and fired low past Anna McCann and into the net to make it 2-7 to 0-00 on twenty seven minutes.
A goal of the League contender by @LouthLGFA’s Niamh Rice on her home turf in @cooleykickhams. Direct running at its finest. #20×20 @WeeCountyGAA @LouthProud @LadiesFootball @DemocratSport @DundalkSport @SportsJOEdotie @GAA__JOE @The42_ie @GAA_BEO @performasports @SportTG4 pic.twitter.com/bgx1ZC6Xp0
— PJ Mc Grane (@stats_machine) March 26, 2019
Rebecca Carr and Lauren Boyle added further points to leave the home side leading by 2-9 to 0-00 at the break. The northern county who only had two attempts in the opening half had a mountain to climb and would have been looking to get an early morale boosting score but unfortunately for Sean O’Kane’s team it was Louth’s Rebecca Carr who hit the the opening score after a spell of good possession by Louth.
Antrim did eventually get off the mark on thirty eight minutes as Caitlin Taggart converted a free. They were now seeing more of the ball in the Louth half but could make little headway against a well organised home defence as Louth continued to look dangerous on the counter attack. That threat became even more apparent midway through the half as a strong run by McMahon resulted in match Referre Hurson awarding a penalty as the Glyde Rangers star was fouled as she bore down on goal.
Teenage star Niamh Rice showing nerves of steel found the net despite the efforts of Anna McCann who guessed correctly . Sinead Woods notched her second point of the afternoon leaving it 3-11 to 0-01 with just eight minutes left. Just a minute later Antrim finally breached the Louth defence as Aoife Taggart fired past Una Pearson but Louth replied with their fourth goal as Alannah McLaughlin knocked the ball into the net after a scramble in the penalty area.
Antrim had the game’s last score as Taggart got her second goal to restore some pride on a tough day for the Saffron girls. All is not lost however for Antrim as a win over Carlow in their final game will see them into the semi finals while Louth play their back fixture against Carlow next weekend.
While acknowledging his side have still work to do to claim a place in the last four with tough games still to come against Carlow, Derry and Fermanagh, Louth manager Darren Bishop expressed satisfaction with his team’s latest win:
“I am very pleased with the teams performance and its great to get another win in a very competitive group
We started the game very well with some very well taken scores. I felt it took us time to judge the breeze but once that happened we took control of the half.
Through out the game I was very impressed with our defence and how well we held Antrim scoreless in the first half. It was also a good opportunity to get looking at some girls that have been sitting out and hungry to get some game time. We now have a difficult three weeks ahead of us with three very competitive games. Each of those teams will be hoping to get a semi final spot like ourselves”, said the Cremartin clubman.
Louth; Una Pearson, Shannen McLaughlin, Sarah Quinn, Eilis Hand, Ciera Nolan, Emer Murray, Derbhila Osborne, Michelle McMahon, Eimear Byrne 0-1, Rebecca Carr 0-2, Susan Byrne 1-1, Sinead Woods O-2, Aoife Russell, Niamh Rice 2-3, Lauren Boyle 0-03.
Subs used Alannah McLaughlin,1-00, Seoda Matthews, Grainne Murray, Kate Flood, Derbhila O’Connor, Emily Norton, Leanne Sharkey and Aine Breen
Antrim; Anna McCann, Orla No Chorra, Caoimhe Stewart, Nicole Millen, Kayla Farren, Ciara Brown, Saoirse Tennyson, Aine Tubridy 0-2, Cathy Carey, Dearbhaile McVicker, Sarah Louise McLaughlin, Niamh Enright, Aoife Taggart 2-00, Maeve McCurdy, Caitlin Taggart 0-1
Subs used; Anna McBride, Rebekah Hemsworth, Aisling Carson.
Report by Dermot Woods