Louth will face Dublin or Kildare in the Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship final after Ardee St Marys youngster Conor Gillespie scored 2-02 as the Wee County emerged victorious in a sensational semi-final against Wexford – winning 4-10 to 2-15.
The prize for tonight’s win is a first Leinster Minor final appearance in 46 years. After a thrilling victory in an end-to-end encounter, Louth players, coaches and family members will have the memory of this game to cherish forever whatever happens in 12 days time. This was not a game to be forgotten.
With a final date just 60 minutes away, manager Wayne Kierans’ minors made the long and ardous trip down to Wexford Park for their crunch semi-final. Having come off the bench to good effect against Offaly in the last eight, Gillespie joined his Ardee St Marys teammates Alan McGauley, Philip Trainor, Liam Jackson and Ciaran Keenan in the starting XV.
Given his form earlier in the campaign – he scored 1-14 in the two previous rounds – all eyes were on John Mitchels man John Gallagher in the full forward line. His involvement with Louth Minors notwithstanding, his club are hoping he’ll be free to play at least some part in their Championship campaign this month.
Things got off to an inauspicious start for Louth in Wexford. Having fallen behind to two early free scores from Jamie Myler, Marys man Jackson got Louth off the mark.
In the intervening eight minutes, Wexford began to build up what seemed like a lead that may become unassailable. Sam Wall’s goal was added to by points from Dylan Lyne, Jimmy Sutton and another free from Myler.
At this stage, Gallagher was guilty of a couple of wides with the boot but Conor Gillespie’s goal soon had Louth tails up. Alan Connor and Gallagher were involved in the build up as the visitors sliced upon the Wexford backline. Gillepsie finished cooly from close range.
Louth’s sluggish start was well behind them. Eoghan Callaghan and Gillespie added points before Gallagher found his range. He hit over a fine 45 before in first half injury time, he pointed again. He could have gone for goal, but the Mitchels star elected to put the ball over the bar.
Lyne’s point on the whistle left the score at 1-07 to 1-05 at the break. Within a minute of the restart, Sutton’s second point restored the three point advantage but it didn’t last. St Mochtas’ Gerry Garland bagged a goal to level matters.
On a balmy night in the South East, Louth had navigated their way out of a decidedly sticky situation. From seven points down, they were on parity. Kierans will have felt hopeful his side could push on.
Connor got forward again from corner back to put Louth in the front for the first time but two quickfire frees from the classy Myler swung the score back in The Model County’s favour.
St Marys forward Keenan got off the mark himself on 36 minutes and Jackon’s superb long ranger soon had Louth back in front. Gillepsie and Mick Molloy swapped points before the visitors took command.
Garland scored his second of the game, reacting quickest to a rebound to fire in for 1-11 to 3-10. This game was throwing up all sorts – and with 15 minutes remaining, it’s pace wasn’t slowing.
After Myler pointed a free again, Wall scored another goal with an absolute belter to leave Wexford trailing by just one. Myler’s point levelled with 10 minutes remaining.
In case there was any doubt that Gillepsie was worthy of his introduction into the starting team, that was put to bed once and for all with seven minutes remaining. He got on the end of another Louth move to finish neatly. 2-13 to 4-10.
Sub Diarmuid Kehoe reduce the deficit to two points before Myler converted yet another free with two minutes left. Lyne was black carded at the death and Myler missed a last gasp 45 as Louth held on – just, JUST – to make a first Leinster Minor final since 1971.
Four minutes of inury time was played. It must have felt like the longest four minutes ever. It’s been too long.