HURLING | Plucky Louth just fall short against Derry in Nicky Rackard opener

Nicky Rackard Cup Round One | Derry 2–17 Louth 1–12

Louth’s Paddy Lynch in action against Maynooth earlier this year. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

Louth’s hurlers produced their best performance of the year to date, putting it up to a well fancied Derry team in this entertaining Nicky Rackard Cup clash played at St Brigid’s Park in Dowdallshill on Saturday afternoon.

The Ulster side certainly did not have it all their own way against a Louth team who came into this match very much the underdogs following six successive defeats in the National League campaign.

Ten of Derry’s points were scored by ace free taker Ruairi Convery and he also put the final nail in the home side’s coffin with a late injury time goal to seal the victory for his side.

Despite the visitors firing themselves into a four point lead after seven minutes, Louth struck back with scores from Michael Ryan, Gerard Smyth and Liam Dwan to leave them trailing by just 0–5 to 0–4 after 10 minutes.

Convery added his fourth point of the half before centre half forward Meehal McGrath netted the eventual winners’ first goal from close range on 15 minutes.

Diarmuid Murphy responded with a pointed free for the hosts but four successive points had Derry leading by 1–10 to 0–5 at the break.

Full forward David Kettle reduced the arrears with the opening point on the resumption and it was a score that inspired the Louth team to produce a brave second half performance that would see them get to within two points of their opponents midway through the second half.

Two pointed frees from Paddy Lynch had Louth trailing by 1–13 to 0–8 before Liam Dwan’s initial effort was saved and Kettle netted from virtually on the goalline to give his side hope after 44 minutes.

The ever reliable Convery was on target again to leave six points between the teams before Louth struck four answered points between the 48th and 53rd minutes.

Diarmuid Murphy was on target with two terrific efforts from distance from the left wing before Paddy Lynch struck over a good brace of frees, 1–14 to 1–12.

Convery, though, restored a three point lead for his side as Louth wasted some good opportunities by shooting three wides in a row.

A tenth pointed free from Convery was followed by a clinching second goal from the wing forward. A short clearance from Louth keeper Shane Nolan to captain Paddy McCormack was fumbled by the St Fechin’s man and Convery picked up the loose ball and soloed in to fire past the stranded keeper from ten metres out.

Substitute Darragh Cartin struck over an injury time point to seal the Ulster side’s win, but it will be Louth joint managers Philip O’Brien and Ken McKenna who will take encouragement from this performance as they prepare their side for their next outing in the second phase of this competition next weekend.

DERRY: Daryl McDermott; Sean McCullagh, Sean Cassidy, Darragh McCloskey; Paul Cleary (0–1), Liam Og Hinphey (0–1), Kevin Hinphey (0–2); Brian Og McGilligan, Conor McAllister; Ruairi Convery (1–10, 10f), Meehal McGrath (1–1), Alan Grant; Oisin McCloskey, Ciaran Steele (0–1), Aaron Kelly. Subs: Gerard Bradley for C McAllister, 43 mins; Eugene McGuckin for S McCullagh, 43 mins; Darragh Cartin for A Kelly, 47 mins; Mark McGuigan for C Steele, 59 mins; Paddy Henry for O McCloskey, 64 mins.

LOUTH: Shane Nolan; Stephen Kettle, Mike Lyons, Paul Challoner; Paddy McCormack, Roger Maher, Andrew McCrave; Donal Ryan, Seaghan Conneely; Gerard Smyth (0–1), Diarmuid Murphy (0–3, 3f), Paddy Lynch (0–4, 4f); Liam Dwan (0–2), David Kettle (1–1), Michael Ryan (0–1). Subs: Davy Mahony for G Smyth, 60 mins; David Stephenson for P Lynch, 62 mins; Conor Mathews for D Kettle, 70 mins.

REFEREE: Tony Carroll (Offaly).

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