Louth secure promotion to Division Two with victory at Semple Stadium
LOUTH 0–16 TIPPERARY 0–12
Louth will play in Division Two of the Allianz National Football League next year after securing back to back promotions with an excellent victory against Tipperary at Semple Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Coming into the game on the back of their first league defeat of the campaign against Armagh seven days earlier, Colin Kelly’s side put a patchy first half performance behind them to dig deep after the interval, running out four point winners to win promotion with a game to spare.
The Wee County’s last visit to the Thurles venue was one to forget, Tipperary running out easy winners in an All-Ireland Qualifier back in 2015.
And Louth were dealt a blow before throw in on Sunday when star forward Ryan Burns withdrew due to illness. Last year’s minor captain, Sam Mulroy, made his first start National League start, as did Kurt Murphy from the Sean O’Mahony’s.
A Liam McGrath point opened the scoring for last year’s beaten All Ireland semi-finalists inside the opening minute but it was cancelled out immediately by Andy McDonnell, who made a welcome return to the Louth midfield after injury.
Points from Josh Keane (free) and All-Star forward Michael Quinlivan put Tipperary two points up but Louth responded with scores from Derek Maguire and Declan Byrne levelling the game once again.
The nip and tuck nature of the half continued with Jack Kennedy and Eoin O’Connor trading points but it was Tipp who went on to open up a two-point lead with Kevin O’Halloran and Conor Sweeney converting frees, Louth’s Patrick Reilly black carded in the build up to Sweeney’s effort.
St Patricks’ Eoin O’Connor cut the deficit to one but an anxious looking Louth continued to make errors, allowing Quinlivan to tap over with a free.
An excellent Tommy Durnin point kept Louth firmly in touch but the natives were given a big opportunity to extend their lead at the break to four when Padraig Rath was harshly adjudged by Kerry official Padraig O’Sullivan to have committed a foul on Quinlivan.
Conor Sweeney’s penalty was tipped onto the post by Craig Lynch with Tipp substitute Philip Austin firing over from the rebound to send Liam Kearns’ team in two up at the break.
Whatever Kelly said to his players at the break certainly worked as Louth burst from the traps to put in a stirring second half performance.
Right from the throw in, Dundalk Gaels’ James Stewart broke clear and his rasping effort was tipped over by Tipp goalkeeper Evan Comerford to cut the deficit to one.
Conor Sweeney and Declan Byrne pointed at either end before Liam McGrath fired over with what proved to be Tipperary’s last score for the next 12 minutes.
Louth took full advantage, kicking four points without reply to take control of the game and go two ahead. Pauric Smith led the charge with McDonnell, Young Irelands star Derek Maguire and St Marys’ John Bingham all on target.
Referee O’Sullivan produced his second black card of the afternoon when Declan Byrne’s ankle tap stopped Tipperary midfielder Liam Casey en route to goal with 12 minutes to go. Sweeney made no mistake with the resulting free to leave just one point in it.
The visitors showed great resolve to keep the hosts at arms length with a brace from the impressive Eoin O’Connor — either side of another Conor Sweeney point — edging Louth towards the finish line, 0–14 to 0–12 with six minutes left on the clock.
And Kelly’s side closed out the game in the final minutes with two players from Dundalk clubs, Gerard McSorley of the Gaels and Clan na Gael’s Conal McKeever, booking the Wee County promotion to Division Two and also a place in the league final on April 8th at Croke Park.
LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Padraig Rath, Patrick Reilly, John Bingham (0–1); Derek Maguire (0–2), Kurt Murphy, James Stewart (0–1); Tommy Durnin (0–1), Andy McDonnell (0–2); Declan Byrne (0–2), Pauric Smith (0–1), Bevan Duffy; Adrian Reid, Eoin O’Connor (0–4, 1f) , Sam Mulroy. Subs: Kevin Carr for P Reilly (BC), 25 mins; Gerard McSorley (0–1) for S Mulroy, 40 mins; Ruairi Moore for T Durnin, 49 mins; Darren McMahon for D Byrne (BC), 58 mins; Conal McKeever (0–1) for A Reid, 72 mins; Derek Crilly for E O’Connor, 73 mins.
TIPPERARY: Evan Comerford; Alan Campbell, Paddy Codd, Willie Connors; Bill Maher, Robbie Kiely, Jimmy Feehan; Liam Casey, Jack Kennedy (0–1); Josh Keane (0–1, 1f), Kevin O’Halloran (0–1, 1f), Brian Fox; Conor Sweeney (0–4, 3f), Michael Quinlivan (0–2, 1f), Liam McGrath (0–2). Subs: Philip Austin (0–1) for Josh Keane, 19 mins; Kevin Fahey for B Maher, 35 mins; Liam Boland for K O’Halloran, 58 mins; Shane O’Connell for M Quinlivan (BC), 64 mins.
REFEREE: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).