Saturday, July 16 2011

Gaelic Football

Louth aces final test

O'BYRNE CUP FINAL LOUTH ...................... 1-17 DCU .......................... 1-10

By Francis CARROLL at the Gaelic Grounds

Wednesday January 28 2009

Louth put themselves in the perfect frame of mind for next Sunday's start of the National League with a comprehensive win over DCU on Sunday to claim a fourth O'Byrne Cup title, and their first since 1990.

While silverware is welcome at any time, and the victory was Louth's fourth on the trot in January, no one was getting carried away by the success, rather there was an eagerness for a crack at Limerick in the Division 3 opener.

Twelve months ago the Reds' first game in the league was away to the Shannonsiders, and that performance was arguably their worst of the campaign. Now, encouragingly, there is a determination to put matters right, back in Drogheda, which manager Eamon McEneaney wants to turn into a fortress.

The 'Wee County' haven't been at full strength throughout the O'Byrne Cup, and a feature of their winning sequence has been players' ability to step up to the mark.

On Sunday midfielder Brian White gave an exhibition of marksmanship to break the Students' hearts, and not too far behind him in the scoring stakes was Darren Clarke in a two-man full-forward line as once more Derek Crilly operated as a third midfielder.

The Dublin college opted to start with their big name players on the bench, perhaps with an eye on their Sigerson Cup tie against Sligo IT, but they gave as good as they got in the early stages, centre-forward Brian Sheridan punishing with accurate frees any misdemeanors by the defence.

It was fitting that White, with two points to his credit already, gave Louth their first lead on 14 minutes with a perfectly struck free from just beyond the 45m line, 0-4 to 0-3.

An excellent Clarke score, set up by Shane Lennon, further extended the advantage before Meathman Sheridan replied with his third free of the afternoon.

The hosts then upped a gear to establish a 0-8 to 0-4 cushion by the 29th minute. It began with Dermot Sheridan blocking Lennon's attempt at goal for a ' 45' which the on-fire White effortlessly stroked over the bar.

Clarke and Ronan Carroll registered from play before Brian Sheridan's free was stylishly cancelled out by White, seller of a nice dummy, on receiving the ball from Adrian Reid.

Louth were in a strong position (0-9 to 0-5) as half-time approached, and although there was no one to convert a John O'Brien ball across the face of the goal - the Sean O'Mahony's man making his first start of the year - DCU were picking the ball out of their own net in the 35th minute.

That it was Dublin defender Paddy Andrews who put it there didn't help their mindset heading into the interval, never mind what the scoreboard read.

Under pressure from JP Rooney he swung at the ball and sent it flying low into keeper Michael Boyle's right-hand corner.

There was an inevitability about the outcome as the second period got underway, and while the appearance of Seanie Johnston subsequently made a big difference to DCU there was too much ground to make up.

Anyway, Louth were in no mood to let Niall Moyna's charges back into it, showing their intent with the first three points of the new half inside eight minutes, two of them brilliantly taken by White, 1-12 to 05.

At this stage the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind pushing ice-cold rain towards the North Road goal the home side were defending.

Three successive Johnston points cut the deficit, but hardworking wing-back Gerard Hoey got his reward with a 25th minute point which was greeted with a hearty cheer from the crowd.

Louth put this one to bed, and with four minutes on the clock the gap was back out to 10 points, 1-16 to 0-9, before a slip by Boyle presented Clarke with a goal opportunity which full-back Ciaran Gavin blocked.

The Students took the bad look off it when a high Johnston delivery tempted Stuart Reynolds from his line. However, Cooley Kickhams player Conor Rafferty beat him to the ball to fist a goal.

After Johnston landed his fifth point, there was a memorable moment for young Louth substitute Derek Maguire who scored with the last kick of the game.

LOUTH: Stuart Reynolds; John O'Brien, Dessie Finnegan, Benny McArdle; Padraig Rath, Michael Fanning, Gerard Hoey 0-1; Ronan Carroll 0-1, Brian White 0-7 (two '45's, one free); Adrian Reid, Shane Lennon, David Reid 01; JP Rooney, Derek Crilly, Darren Clarke 0-5 (two frees). Subs., Paraic Smith 0-1 for A Reid (52), Aaron Hoey for R Carroll (yellow card, 53), Derek Maguire 0-1 for JP Rooney (66), Kevin Rogers for D Clarke (70).

DCU: Michael Boyle; Barry Watters, Ciaran Gavin, Paddy Andrews (own-goal); Dermot Sheridan, Ciaran Hughes, Ronan Flanagan; Ray Cullivan 0-1, Kevin Reilly; Cahal Cregg, Brian Sheridan 0-4 (all frees), David Keenan; Rory Maguire, Luke Sweetman, Martin McElroy. Subs., Seanie Johnston 0-5 (three frees) for R Maguire, Shane O'Rourke for L Sweetman, David Kelly for D Keenan (all half-time), Kevin Leahy for R Flanagan (yellow card, 43), Padraig Howard for B Sheridan (yellow card, 56), Conor Rafferty 1-0 for C Cregg (64).

REFEREE: John Bannon (Longford).

- Francis CARROLL at the Gaelic Grounds

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