Louth 4-10 Longford 2-07
It was their first meaningful game since early March, but Louth put their eight month lay-off behind them to see off Longford and set up a winner take all showdown with Westmeath on Sunday.
After a slow start Wayne Freeman’s side came on strong in the second half to record an impressive win.
Wee County mentor Lee Hunt was delighted with how Louth got the job done;
“The victory was just reward for the players who have worked hard over the past two months. As a management team we had a close look at the opposition, and we were confident we could do well.
We started very well and created some good chances. It took until the water break for our forwards to find their rhythm with some great link up between them and some top-class score taking. The subs who were introduced all did a fine job, while all of our players stayed with the game plan”
Louth did most of the damage in a six-minute spell midway through the second half when they hit 2-03 without reply to put themselves in the ascendancy as they led by 3-7 to 0-06.
From there to the finish, Longford were always playing catch-up and never really threatened a comeback as Louth inspired by their inside forward line of Kate Flood, Eimear Byrne and Lauren Boyle picked apart the Longford defence.
Louth dominated the early exchanges and led by 0-2 to 0-00 after ten minutes with Lauren Boyle and Kate Flood on target and should have been much further in front with a number of efforts dropping short or into the keeper’s hands.
Longford rallied with fine scores from Aoife Darcy and Grace Shannon but a superb score from Flood after good play by Eimear Byrne had Louth back in front.
Another strong run by Byrne created a goal chance for Lauren Boyle only for Grainne Reilly to get back and make a vital interception. Boyle and Aoife Byrne added points as the half drew to a close before a sensational 30 yard pass by Kate Flood found Lauren Boyle who nonchalantly rolled the ball into the net in the 29th minute.
Aoife Darcy replied with a score from a free as Louth led 1-5 to 0-4 at the break
On the resumption Kate Flood had an early chance to extend the Louth lead before Longford’s Michelle Farrell was sent to the sin bin for a foul on Niamh Rice.
The midlanders were presented with a golden chance to get back in the game when they were awarded a penalty as Claire Farrell was fouled with Eimear Heaney seeing her spot kick pushed over the bar by Una Pearson.
Longford then reduced the deficit further as a loose pass by a Louth defender saw Heaney gain possession only to be fouled with Darcy converting the free (1-5 to 0-6) after 38 minutes.
Enda Sheridan’s side then received another blow as they were reduced to thirteen players as midfielder Aisling O’Hara became the second of their players to be yellow carded for persistent fouling.
Louth took full advantage of their numerical advantage with two brilliant goals in as many minutes as first a wonderful Lauren Boyle pass found Eimear Byrne with the Mochta’s star unleashing an unstoppable shot past Riane McGrath.
Shortly after Kate Flood got the goal her performance deserved with a well placed shot into the corner of the net. There was no stopping Louth as Longford were forced to try and quench too many fires.
Flood and Boyle added further points as the Reds dominance gave them a 3-08 to 0-07 lead at the second water break.
Eimear Byrne quickly extended the Louth lead to eleven points after the re-start but Longford were given a glimmer of hope as Clodagh Lohan took advantage of a defensive error to find the net.
Both sides then had goal chances as first Ashling O’Hara saw her shot drift inches past the post and at the other end Kate Flood also came close her shot hitting the post.
To their credit the young Longford side never gave up and were given further encouragement when Grace Shannon picked up a loose pass and set Darcy free to fire to the net in the 54th minute 3-9 to 2-7.
However, any hopes of an unlikely come back were dashed when Kate Flood gained possession and her accurate pass found her St. Patrick’s club mate Aine Breen who drove the ball high into the net from 25 yards.
Louth almost had a fifth goal late on but Flood was again denied by the woodwork with Lauren Boyle adding a point from the resultant play.
The win will boost confidence levels ahead of this weekend’s crunch meeting with Westmeath while this defeat sees Longford bow out of this year’s championship.
Louth: Una Pearson; Eilis Hand, Sarah Quinn, Eimear Murray; Claire Donnelly (0-01), Shannen McLaughlin, Michelle McMahon; Aine Breen (1-00), Aoife Byrne (0-01); Róisín Kavanagh, Eimear Byrne (1-01), Aoife Russell, Niamh Rice; Lauren Boyle (1-04, 0-02 frees), Kate Flood (1-03, 0-01 free). Subs: Rebecca Carr for Kavanagh, Aimee McNally for Rice, Lauren McFaul for Donnelly, Seoda Matthews for Hand
Longford: Riane McGrath; Caoimhe Lohan, Eimear O’Brien, Grainne Reilly,Clare Farrell, Orla Nevin, Hannah Glennon, Kara Shannon, Aisling O’Hara; Michelle Farrell, Aoife Darcy (1-04, 0-04 frees), Grace Shannon (0-01); Clodagh Lohan (1-00), Emer Heaney (0-01, penalty), Kamille Burke. Subs: Orla Farrell for Nevin, Lauren Maguire (0-01) for Burke, Ciara Mulligan for Glennon.
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down)
Report by Dermot Woods | Photos by Warren Matthews