Louth are back in the All Ireland semi-finals after scoring a dramatic win over London. In a thrilling encounter at Pairc Clan Na Gael on Saturday afternoon the Reds edged out the Exiles by a single point.
With just over seven left minutes to play, Naoimhin Daly took advantage of a poor clearance to rattle the net to put London six points in front and favourites to top the group. The home side showed admirable courage to claw their way back into the game with captain Kate Flood hitting the winning point in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
Despite Susan Byrne giving Louth an early lead it was London who looked the more impressive and points from Mayo native Avril Kilkelly (3) and Hannah Noonan saw them lead 0:4 to 0:2 in the tenth minute. By that stage both teams had goal chances as Claire O’Sullivan should have taken advantage of a defensive mistake in the seventh minute and just a minute later at the other end Caoimhe O’Reilly did brilliantly to keep out a Niamh Rice effort.
Louth were back in front midway through the half when Eimear Byrne and Michelle McMahon combined to set up Aine Breen to shoot low to the corner of the net. Rebecca Carr and Lisa Walsh swapped points before Rice had what appeared to be a legitimate goal disallowed by referee Kieran McKeever after the Ballyhegan man had consulted with his umpires.
Louth hit a number of sides before their defence were caught off guard when Nioimhin Daly got in behind the cover to slot the ball to the net leaving London 1:7 to 1:5 ahead at the break.
The Exiles resumed in some style as they hit three points without reply. The Reds replied as similar scores from Susan Byrne and Niamh Rice brought the deficit back to three.
Louth’s hopes were severely dented shortly after when the alert Avril Kilkelly intercepted a Una Pearson clearance to set up Daly to grab London’s second goal as they led 2:10 to 1:7 entering the final stages.
Louth were in dire need of inspiration and it was Niamh Rice who answered the call. The Cooley Kickham’s star won possession some forty yard’s from goal and went past a number of defenders as they weren’t there before crashing an unstoppable shot high into the visitors net to set up a thrilling finish.
Boosted by the goal Louth piled on the pressure but hit four wides from good positions before London who were two in front lost their centre back Niamh Lister to the sin-bin. There was no shortage of drama as the London lead was wiped out as Carr and Flood were on target before Susan Byrne and sub Fiona Morrissey exchanged points.
The final act of this enthralling contest was provided by captain Kate Flood who showed remarkable composure to slot over the winning score in the seventh minute of added on time.
We put our bodies on the line and pressed from their kick outs and they had no answer.
Louth midfielder Aoife Byrne felt her side adjusted well to the London challenge; “One of our toughest matches thus far in our 2019 campaign. London brought a serious intensity to the first half of our game and we began to forget our game plan, we made simple mistakes which just isn’t like us.
“Our second half performance was the Louth team we know. Sinead Woods came on in the second half and she had a huge impact on the game, driving forward and making crucial decisions. The final quarter of the game was a real dog fight. We put our bodies on the line and pressed from their kick outs and they had no answer.”
With the semi final less than three away, the Louth management will be aware that there are areas the side can improve on. They had 12 wides over the hour and both goals were preventable. They will be hoping that Lauren Boyle who missed this game through injury will be available for the semi final.
Coming from six down really tested our girls and I’m delighted to see how they showed such fight and character to get back into the game.
In his eight Championship game as manager of Louth Darren Bishop was pleased with how his side dug in and fought to the very end;
“The game was a fantastic display of football. Both teams went at it right from the start. You couldn’t fault the intensity of the game right from the throw in. Areas that I was pleased with was first of all getting the win and maintaining our momentum, coming from six down really tested our girls and I’m delighted to see how they showed such fight and character to get back into the game.
“In the second half I felt we had the lions share of possession, however we couldn’t convert the chances. We missed a fair few scores in front of the goals that we would normally get. This is something we will look at over the next few weeks.
“I felt our defence was top notch today, they never stopped working and handled the pressure very well. Qualifying for the All Ireland semi-finals was a goal that we had set for ourselves, and I’m delighted to have achieved it.
“Looking forward to the next few weeks, we will be preparing for whoever comes out of the other side of the group, however no matter who we play in the semi final, it will be a score or two in the difference that’s how competitive this grade appears to be.We will get the few injury concerns cleared up over the next week or so and move forward from there.”
Louth’s extra experience and game time really came to the fore at the end.
Meanwhile the London manager Paddy Bowles, felt Louth’s greater experience was crucial to the outcome;
“It was a great game of football and just a pity there had to be a loser. Our girls worked exceptionally hard but I think Louth’s extra experience and game time really came to the fore at the end.
Louth are a very good team and for us to give them such a close match will give us confidence moving onto to the next game. Big learning curve for us but I am happy overall with how our girls performed.Tough game for us now against Carlow but hopefully playing such a tough game as Louth will help us develop and prepare for that game”, concluded the Limerick native.
Louth: Una Pearson; Shannen McLaughlin,
Sarah Quinn, Eilis Hand; Ceire Nolan, Michelle McMahon, Aine Breen (1-0); Eimear
Byrne, Aoife Byrne; Rebecca Carr (0-2), Susan Byrne (0-4), Aoife Russell;
Jennifer McGuinness (0-1), Kate Flood (0-4), Niamh Rice (1-1)
Subs: Sinead Woods for Russell (HT), Grainne Murray for McMahon (HT)
London: Caoimhe O’Reilly; Niamh Walsh,
Ruanne Hunt, Nicole Mulholland; Cliona Twohig, Niamh Lister, Shona Roche;
Naoimhín Daly (1-0), Hannah Noonan (1-2); Claire O’Sullivan, Kathryn Canavan,
Caroline McCarthy (0-1); Claire O’Brien (0-2), Avril Kilkelly (0-5, two frees),
Subs: Fiona Morrissey (0-1) for O’Sullivan (45), Lisa Walsh for McGahan (51), Noelle Cocoman for Roche (54)
Referee: Kieran McKeever (Armagh)
Report by Dermot Woods