Louth Ladies go close to staging a miraculous recovery

Louth Ladies 5–8 Fermanagh 6–10

Louth Ladies’ Ann Marie Murphy gathers ahead of Courtney Murphy of Fermanagh. Picture: Ciaran Culligan

Gavin McLaughlin reports from Haggardstown

Fourteen points down at the break, it looked like Louth Ladies were heading to a big defeat against Fermanagh in Haggardstown on Sunday afternoon but the Reds produced a stirring second half display that ended with them just falling short of making a miraculous recovery.

John O’Leary’s Wee County side knew that only a victory would be good enough to secure a place in the LIDL National League Division Four semi-finals but they had to go into battle without injured forward Paula Murray, who contributed 1–7 in the win over Derry six days earlier.

Despite that, things started promisingly for the hosts with Kilkerley’s Sinead Woods firing over straight from the throw-in before Aimee McNally was denied by the legs of Fermanagh goalkeeper, Roisin Gleeson, moments later.

Louth’s bright opening continued and Woods, Ann Marie Murphy and Susan Byrne fashioned another good chance but the latter just couldn’t find the target.

Fermanagh finally chugged into gear with Sharon Murphy hitting the Louth woodwork with their first chance of the game. The Lisakea player then scuffed the ball wide of the upright with just Louth goalkeeper Alannah Finn to beat.

Joanne Doonan opened the visitors’ account with a simple free before Lisa Maguire and Louth’s Susan Byrne both hit wides at opposite ends of the pitch.

Byrne made light of her miss by raising the green flag in the 15th minute. The St Mochtas player burst through the ranks of green and white shirts to smash the ball past Gleeson. It was followed up by a point from Rebecca Carr that put Louth 1–2 to 0–1 ahead.

The game was turned on its head as Fermanagh seized control of the half by hitting two goals in the space of as many minutes. Murphy did the damage on both occasions, racing on to a couple of incisive passes by Doonan to hit the net and put the Ulster side two points in front.

Louth found themselves pinned back in their own half at this stage and Doonan floated a free over the bar before Murphy worked the ball brilliantly onto her left foot for a tidy score. Nuala McManus made it 3–3 to 1–2 with Fermanagh’s third goal, a vicious left-footed effort across the helpless Finn.

Louth needed a quick pick me up and an Aimee McNally point stemmed the tide but Fermanagh hit 2–2 without reply to take a commanding lead into the break.

Doonan added to her tally before lady luck turned her back on the natives when McNally saw an effort crash back off the bar after a sensational catch by Murphy — and subsequent pass by Susan Byrne — had created the opportunity.

Play switched to the other end with Nuala McManus adding a point before misfortune struck Louth again on the stroke of half-time when Dannielle McManus hit the net after a Murphy shot came back off the post and fell kindly into her path.

Louth manager John O’Leary sent Kate Flood into action for the start of the second half and the St Patrick’s star soon made her mark, turning onto her right foot and splitting the posts.

That came just seconds after Rebecca Carr broke through for her second of the day and Louth’s bright spell continued with Susan Byrne working an opening to hit the net in the 40th minute to leave it 5–6 to 2–5.

Fermanagh looked to have weathered the storm as they tagged on three points without reply before Susan Byrne and Joanne Doonan exchanged goals at either end of the pitch.

Doonan’s goal extended Fermanagh’s lead to 13 points but Louth dug deep and hit the next five scores of the afternoon to come within a point of drawing level.

Flood’s quickfire brace, one a wicked right-footed drive, the other a simple free, set the wheels in motion before Byrne made no mistake from the penalty spot to claim her fourth goal of the game.

Aoife Byrne then hit a captain’s point with a stunning left-footed effort and when Ann Marie Murphy managed to squeeze an effort inside Gleeson’s near post with four minutes left on the clock, the unlikeliest of comebacks was on the cards, 6–9 to 5–8.

Louth pushed hard and Flood sent a drive wide of the posts before Murphy had the ball in the net, palming a Carr centre past Gleeson but the effort was ruled out as the Foxrock/Cabinteely player was in the square when it dropped her way.

A couple of injuries took the sting out of the game and Fermanagh used it to their advantage with substitute Blaithin Bogue putting the result beyond doubt in the dying seconds.

So near, so far for Louth Ladies but they can be proud of their efforts.

The LIDL NFL Division Four table

LOUTH LADIES: Alannah Finn; Eimear Murray, Dearbhla O’Connor, Amy Dalton; Kathy Reilly, Sara Moore, Aoife Halligan; Aoife Byrne (0–1), Rebecca Carr (0–2); Eimear Byrne, Sinead Woods (0–1), Roisin Kavanagh; Susan Byrne (4–0, 1 pen), Ann Marie Murphy (1–0), Aimee McNally (0–1). Subs: Coirin Rice, Amy Dalton, Aoife Gregory, Andrea Lennon, Kate Flood (0–3, 1f), Tracy Rogers, Catherine McGlew, Christine Carolan, Katie Moore.

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