Louth remain rooted to the foot of Allianz National Football League Division 3 after a first half blitz by Offaly was ultimately what put them to the sword on home soil. With the wind against them in the first half, Louth were well and truly swept away by their opponents who were clinical in front of the posts.
Swapping sides upon the resumption for the second half offered Louth some hope, and Offaly reason for caution. While Wayne Kierans side could not immediately produce the kind of cutting edge necessary to bridge a ten point half time deficit – it duly arrived but wasn’t enough.
After dragging themselves back into the game – from 10 points behind to just one with three minutes of normal play remaining – indiscipline took hold. Sam Mulroy and Tommy Durnin were both sent off in injury time after two Ruairi McNamee points had left Louth a goal adrift of a draw.
McNamee was Offaly’s main man throughout. His two first half goals had put the visitors in control.
Mulroy’s goal marked the start of the comeback in the second half. The introduction of St Mochtas man Declan Byrne was a turning point too. He seemed willing to do what some teammates were not – take on the point-scoring responsibility. He split the posts four times within 20 minutes of taking to the field. He also made Grimes’ late goal as Louth then looked likely to take something from the game.
Teenager Liam Jackson had notched the Wee County’s first score of the game at the Gaelic Grounds. It had taken 17 minutes to arrive. By then, Louth trailed by ten points. Ruairi McNamee’s two goals in a four minute spell saw Offaly take full advantage of the conditions that would be to their benefit for 35 minutes.
Captain Bevan Duffy, who made way soon after, added to Louth’s tally but as ever, rudimentary mistakes ensured Louth were unable to build up any kind of head of steam. For McNamee’s second goal, it was Duffy’s poor pass that conceded possession. Too often, Louth lacked the movement to cause Offaly any problems. The ball was being turned over again and again.
Conor Grimes put over from close range shortly before the interval but by then Offaly were enjoying almost total control.
The Faithful County notched the first two scores of the second half too but Louth, to their credit, eventually hit back. Byrne hit three unanswered scores while Eoghan Callaghan and sub Conor Early also contributed.
No sooner had Grimes netted from a brilliant Byrne aerial catch and pass, Ruairi McNamee slotted over a free and then hit one over the bar from play to put three in it. Louth had nothing more in the tank and succumbed to a third straight league loss. There was no repeat of last year’s comeback win in Tullamore. It is just one win in 13 competitive games at the Gaelic Grounds now.
The injury time dismissals of messers Mulroy and Durnin only add to the misery for boss Kierans, who was without Ryan Burns through injury and lost James Califf midway through the first half. The O’Connell’s clubman may now see his options for next week’s trip to Derry further reduced.
LOUTH: Craig Lynch, Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, Niall Sharkey, Eoghan Callaghan, Emmet Carolan, John Clutterbuck, James Califf, Tommy Durnin, Liam Jackson, Bevan Duffy, Ciaran Downey, Paul Matthews, Sam Mulroy, Conor Grimes.
Subs: Conal McKeever for Bevan Duffy (22), Conor Early for James Califf (35+1), Declan Byrne for Niall Sharkey (43), Eoghan Duffy for Liam Jackson (57).
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican, Colm Doyle, Eoin Rigney, Declan Hogan, Eoin Carroll, David Dempsey, Niall Darby, Conor McNamee, Michael Brazil, Cathal Mangan, Shane Hogan, Ciaran Donnelly, Anton Sullivan, Bernard Allen, Ruairi McNamee.
Subs: Cian Donohoe for Ciaran Donnelly (36).