Louth will have to wait at least another year for Leinster Minor Football Championship success after they went down 2-19 to 0-12 against a rampant Dublin in this year’s showpiece final at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.
Despite Ciaran Keenan’s three points in the first half, Louth allowed Dublin to rack up a big early lead at GAA headquarters. Having developed a reputation for coming back from the brink in this exhilarating Championship campaign, Sunday’s final proved a step too far against a strong Dublin outfit. They retained that big advantage comfortably in the second half to win the Fr Larry Murphy Cup.
As it turned out, Dublin’s two goals in the space of two first half minutes gave them the platform to go on and win a first provincial title since 2014. Louth’s first final appearance in 46 years goes unrewarded and the wait for them now extends to at least 65 years. On the day, local Ardee-based players contributed 11 of Louth’s 12 scores.
Wayne Kierans selected six local players in his starting XV, as he did in the semi-final against Wexford twelve days ago. Alan McGauley, Philip Trainor, Liam Jackson, Keenan and Conor Gillespie of Ardee St Marys joined John Mitchels’ young star John Gallagher in the line up.
The local contingent have contributed hugely to the run to Croker, with Jackson, Gillespie, Keenan and Gallagher scoring 3-23 in three games on the way. Trainor impressed at full back, with goalkeeper McGauley playing a pivotal role in arguably the turning point in Louth’s journey to the final. A point down against Laois with just ten minutes remaining, he saved a penalty which laid the foundations for Gallagher to go on and secure the win.
Unlike Portlaoise, things didn’t quite go to plan for the stopper in Dublin. Beaten twice in the opening seven minutes, the Dubs quick start looked to put Louth to the sword early on. There was little McGauley could do with either James Madden and James Doran’s efforts.
Ardee lads have big impact
Local Ardee based players contributed 11 of Louth’s 12 points against Dublin at Croke Park. John Gallagher and Ciaran Keenan hit 0-05 each while Liam Jackson split the posts late on.
In truth, the Wee County were standoffish in defence, allowing Dublin a far too easy passage through the lines. The Blues – in their backyard – could have added more, with Sean Hawkshaw a constant threat. McGauley’s day was over within 20 minutes. In denying their opponents a third goal, he injured himself and after a few poor kickouts, he was replaced by Ross Molloy.
Jackson had Louth’s opening chance but hit wide as Dublin notched the first two points of the afternoon. John Gallagher halved the deficit with his and Louth’s first. That was before Dublin’s quickfire goal splurge. Ciaran Keenan was showing well and he was Louth’s best outlet in the opening 30 minutes.
He scored three frees – including one that required a HawkEye intervention – as Kierans’ young side kept within two scores of the Dubs – 2-05 to 0-05. After that though, Dublin ran away with it – hitting six unanswered points before half time – David Lacey, Hawkshaw and Eoin O’Dea doing the damage. It was 2-11 to 0-05 at the interval.
After the break, Dublin were still keeping their opponents at arm’s length. Louth – courtesy of a Keenan free and three dead balls from the consistent boot of Gallagher – were scoring but not at the rate that would significantly alter the tide of this game.Those four points, three frees and a 45, were all Louth had to their name in 25 second half minutes.
It was a time when you’d have hoped the boys in red would have thrown caution to the wind and chased Dublin down, however much it appeared in vain. But, Dublin looked in consummate control. Louth weren’t creating to any great degree. A goal to take away from their Croke Park appearance looked unlikely.
John Gallagher’s late free brought his tally for the afternoon to 0-05 and the Championship to 1-21. Jackson also put one over with three minutes remaining and then Keenan, undoubtedly Louth’s best performer on the day, scored his fifth of the match from a free as the clocked ticked past 60 minutes.
Luke Doran and Ciaran Archer’s late points were the cherry on top a big Dublin victory. Leonard Grey’s black card arrived late too, but the game was gone by then. The inter-county season isn’t over just yet for Louth – they will now face another mammoth task next month, in the form of Munster champions Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
MAIN PHOTO: Dublin GAA Twitter