John Mitchels young star John Gallagher was the star of the show as Louth booked their place in the semi-finals of the Leinster Minor Football Championship on Saturday afternoon, overturning a seven point deficit to beat Offaly 0-15 to 1-11 in injury time.
Gallagher scored 0-08 of Louth’s 15 score haul at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda and just when it looked like Louth were once again heading to extra-time in this year’s Championship, Gallagher was on hand to score a long range free kick in the first minute of time added on to ensure Louth’s progress.
The full forward was just one of a number of local Ardee players in Wayne Kieran’s selection against Offaly, joining Ardee St Marys quartet Alan McGauley, Philip Trainor, Conor Jackson and Ciaran Keenan in the starting XV. Conor Gillespie came off the bench in the second half.
It looked like Louth might be on the end of a severe beating early on. Despite Gallagher’s early free, Louth trailed 1-05 to 0-01 after just 11 minutes. He added two further scores – one from a free as the Wee County came into the game more on home soil – to help reduce the arrears to four points by the break. Louth trailed 1-08 to 0-07.
The youngsters owed much to an early blitz in the second half for pegging the Faithful back. Gallagher notched the first score after the restart and Keenan put over a free with his left boot to leave Louth trailing by just one. The visitors themselves were guilty of a several wides in the opening stages of the second half and Louth took their queue.
Keenan impressed as they came back into the game and Gallagher looked incapable of missing the target when the opportunity arose. Half forward Fergal Malone of Cooley Kickhams also proved an influential force in the second half comeback – he scored 0-02 in total but his overall impact was there for all to see.
Gillespie made his entrance with 14 minutes remaining just before Keenan was on the receiving end of a high challenge that saw an Offaly man yellow carded. It could have been black. Offaly captain Cian Farrell was kicking more wides than was comfortable and it took the visitors 18 minutes of the second to register a score, through right half back Ciaran Donnelly.
That was to be the first of just three points they would register in the second 30 minute half. Gallagher kicked a superb point from range to level the scores at 0-13 to 1-10 and they went in front when he kicked a 45 over.
Away goalkeeper Jack McEvoy scored a seemingly contrived point from a short free kick to set the nerves jangling amongst the home crowd in the 27th minute but they needn’t have worried. Johnny really did have them covered. From 35 metres out in a central position, the Mitchels man showed really coolness in the first minute of injury time to slot over.
Yesss!!! John Gallagher Free In Added Time pic.twitter.com/xxyWhNPRye
— Louth GAA (@louthgaa) May 20, 2017
Offaly were left to rue Cian Johnson’s late wide. After a stunning comeback in the previous round against Laois – a match in which the Ardee-heavy Louth team pulled back a nine point deficit to win in extra time – this was another example of this young side’s determination and strength in adversity.
Having John Gallagher in the team helps. That’s 1-14 for him now in two Championship games. All the Ardee lads have played their part.
— Ronan Carroll (@thewools) May 20, 2017
— Darren Clarke (@clarkie2015) May 20, 2017