GAA | Royals rumble past Louth to book their place in Leinster semi-finals

Leinster SFC quarter-final | Meath 0–27 Louth 3–9

Louth’s Leinster Senior Championship hopes were ended in Parnell Park on Sunday afternoon as Meath ran out comfortable winners to book their place in the semi-finals.

The Reds were looking to claim a first championship win over their neighbours since 1975 and with 45 minutes played they were two points in front.

The old enemy finished with a flourish, though, hitting 14 scores in comparison to one from Louth to rack up a tally of 27 points in total and claim a nine-point margin of victory.

Louth boss Colin Kelly made three changes to the team named on Friday with Jim McEneaney, Declan Byrne and Liam Dullaghan all handed starts and it was the Geraldines man who got the ball rolling before Meath skipper Graham Reilly hit a brace to set Andy McEntee’s men on their way.

The Division Two side had numerous goal chances in the first half with Craig Lynch having to make a fine stop to deny Donal Keogan in the third minute. Cillian O’Sullivan saw a shot go agonisingly wide while Bryan McMahon was denied by the underside of the bar with Lynch well beaten.

Further points from James Toher and O’Sullivan propelled Meath four points clear, 0–8 to 0–4, before McEneaney levelled matters with 1–1, the goal coming from the penalty spot after Meath full-back Conor McGill’s bodycheck on Anthony Williams which saw him black carded.

Kevin Carr followed McGill to the sideline shortly after, the Newtown Blues man replaced by Ronan Holcroft after receiving a black card, and a brace from Donal Lenihan, either side of a Bevan Duffy score, gave Meath the narrowest of advantages at the break, 0–10 to 1–6.

The pendulum swung the Wee County’s way when Holcroft took advantage of a poor kick out by O’Rourke to return the ball to an empty net and edge Louth a point clear.

Substitute James Califf landed three points in quick succession to keep Louth in front, 2–9 to 0–13, with 45 minutes played on the clock.

Kelly introduced Conall McKeever for Sean O’Mahonys’ Liam Dullaghan at the break and the Clan na Gael man grabbed Louth’s third goal of the game in the 57th minute. It was badly needed as five points in succession had Meath 0–20 to 2–9 in front when McKeever hit the net.

That set it up for a grandstand finish but the Royals flexed their muscles in the final 11 minutes, hitting seven scores without reply with captain Reilly, subs Thomas O’Reilly and Ruairi O’Coileain and Sean Tobin all on target to secure Meath a last four shot against Kildare and condemn Louth to the Qualifiers.

MEATH: Paddy O’Rourke; Donnacha Tobin, Conor McGill, Mickey Burke; Padraic Harnan, Donal Keogan, Shane McEntee; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones (0–1); James Toher (0–5, 3f), Cillian O’Sullivan (0–01), Eamon Wallace; Graham Reilly (0–7), Bryan McMahon (0–2), Donal Lenihan (0–6, 3f, 1 ’45). Subs: David McQuillan for C McGill, 30 mins (BC), Ruairi O’Coileain (0–02) for S McEntee, 52 mins, Cian O’Brien for Menton, 55 mins, Thomas O’Reilly (0–2) for B McMahon, 59 mins, Sean Tobin (0–1) for C O’Sullivan, 69 mins.

LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Paddy Reilly, Kevin Carr, Padraig Rath; John Bingham, Liam Dullaghan, Anthony Williams (0–1); Tommy Durnin, James Stewart; Declan Byrne, Jim McEneaney (1–2, 1 pen), Bevan Duffy (0–1); Padraic Smith, Eoin O’Connor, Ryan Burns (0–2, 2f). Subs: Kurt Murphy for P Rath, 20 mins; Andy McDonnell for D Byrne, 26 mins; Ronan Holcroft (1–0) for K Carr, 29 mins (BC), Conall McKeever (1–0) for Dullaghan, HT; James Califf (0–3, 1f) for T Durnin, 41 mins, Ruairi Moore for P Smith, 70 mins.

REFEREE: Barry Cassidy (Derry).

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