A whole host of local teams return to action in the Louth GAA Championship this weekend, as the quarter-finals of the senior, intermediate and junior grades are upon us. The knockout stage is considered the business-end of the competition and it’s easy to see why. Many of the teams who have made it this far have cruised through the group stages, awaiting tougher challenges ahead.
For others, it’s been more of a scrap but they know the nature of the competition now means anything can happen. In a one off game, hope is there to be clung to – for all involved. Hunterstown Rovers are aiming to at least match last year’s IFC semi-final appearance while Westerns GFC, Sean McDermotts, Glyde Rangers and Stabannon Parnells all have JFC progress in their sights.
Before all they take to the field, Ardee St Marys have to manoeuvre a unique playoff against St Josephs. The two sides finished level on everything of Group 1 one of the Senior Championship, meaning they have to do it all again to join Sean O’Mahony’s in getting out of their group.
Ahead of a busy weekend of action, we’re here to look back at how all of the clubs got this far.
An inspired performance from veteran Darren Clarke, who bagged 0-06 for himself, could not prevent Hugh Durrigan’s side from being held on the opening day of the 2017 edition of the Championship. Last year’s intermediate winners proved a stern test but the Blues came away from the match ruing their inability to make the most of their early advantage.
Clarke was in top form, operating from a deep position, but the Ardee side escaped a chastening defeat when Alan Quigley fired wide in injury time. This was the result that ensured this weekend’s playoff became a real possibility.
A strong first half performance wasn’t enough to stop the Marys falling to defeat against the O’Mahonys in a repeat of last year’s final in Dunleer. In what was always likely to be a tight game, the Ardee men just couldn’t keep pace with a strong second half show from the Dundalk side, falling to a late Stephen Fisher point.
The Marys had led by four points in the first half – knowing a win was vital to their hopes of progress. But like a week earlier, they let their advantage slip and finished mostly on the back foot after Conor Crawley finished well for the game’s only goal.
Rovers just edged this opener but a win is a win and in the pressure cooker of the Championship, that’s all that really counts. Glen Mathews early goal got them off to the best possible start but the first half was generally a low scoring and tight affair. Jim Mathews have at times been free-scoring in their excellent league campaign in 2017.
They weren’t finding it as easy to put scores on the board in Stabannon. Hunterstown were a point to the good when Louth’s Bevan Duffy was black carded with ten minutes remaining. They couldn’t extend their lead but didn’t need to.
Rovers took a step closer to matching their semi-final appearance last season as they made it two from two in the Championship – meaning the following week’s final game between the Mochtas and Fechins meant nothing to group winners Hunterstown. Alan Landy notched the first half goal and Paul Carrie’s late point made sure of victory.
The Mochtas were in the ascendancy as the game wore on. The Reds were grateful for Carrie’s fine late free and Landy’s injury time score for making it 1-08 to 0-07. It proved ample breathing space. A handful of late, wind assisted wides helped them over the line. Now, rivals Clan na Gael await in the last four.
The final score of this clash doesn’t tell the whole story as the young side from Drogheda put it up to the Westerns, until the men from Reaghstown surged away late on. Cathal O’Hanlon’s side started the group as favourites to emerge on top and a comfortable win over the Tones was the expectation. While few read too much into this particular win, it proved a good test for battles to come.
Inter-county man Tommy Durnin was heavily involved, hitting 1-07 from play and dead balls while Conor Kerr and sub Ciaran Campbell also netted.
This was the group’s most one-sided game, even though the Tones suffered a couple of heavy defeats. They at least looked capable of offering a resistance to their opponents. Here, the Westerns outfought and outplayed the Mitchels. Their 13 point victory could have been much more, in truth.
Goals in each half from Conor Kerr and Johnnie Lynch helped the Westies on their way. It took the Mitchels’ 36 minutes to register their first score of the evening. Two high scoring wins meant the Westerns were all but through with a game to spare.
Back in Tallanstown for the groups’ final outing, this was fiesty, furious stuff from the outset. What looked like a comfortable enough Westerns win was in jeopardy late on as a Seans comeback threw the outcome into question. On the bench, the Seans subs and backroom team were unaware of the Tones win in Louth Village – meaning they didn’t know whether they were through or not as the two sides went toe-to-toe at the death.
In the end, Trevor Baylon’s point won it for the Westerns but it didn’t matter. Both sides are through and face tough tasks this weekend.
This match was quite the way to kick off a group with major local interest on a sun-drenched Friday evening in Tallanstown. The Seans were favourites but the Mitchels showed why the underdog tag might suit them. In the end, this match didn’t prove a indicator of things to come.
The Seans were scoreless by the break – down 2-05 to nothing. The Mitchels only added a point in the second by in contrast, the Seans could only hit 0-06, not enough to reel in that big half-time deficit. They came up against a very determined and sprightly Mitchels team, but the Seans would up it as the group neared it’s end.
Brian Carroll’s side bounced back well from their opening day defeat with a comprehensive 11 point win over the Tones. The youthful outfit from Drogheda ended up earning a big win over John Mitchels on the final night of group stage action, so posed a threat – but the Seans had far too much for them.
Their height and physical advantage wore the Tones down – with Patrick Osbourne back from suspension and Tony Kelly hitting 1-03 as the men from Mountrush gave themselves the best possible chance of progression by returning to winning ways in Stabannon. A narrow defeat to rivals Westerns followed but it proved enough. Now, they face a mammoth task in overcoming Roche Emmets.
Anglo Printers Junior Football Championship Group 2
- MATCHDAY ONE: St Nicholas 0-03 Glyde Ranger 5-17
- MATCHDAY TWO: Glyde Rangers 1-15 St Nicholas 1-06
Anglo Printers Junior Football Championship Group 1
- MATCHDAY ONE: Glen Emmets 1-17 Stabannon Parnells 2-10
- MATCHDAY TWO: Cuchulainn Gaels 0-05 Stabannon Parnells 5-16
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