NFL Division Three: Classy Louth get their league campaign off to a flier
National Football League Division Three:
Laois 0-10 2-16 Louth
By Caoimhín Reilly
What a difference six-days makes, or is it that Louth have gotten used to the ‘six-day turnaround.’
Having been the laughing stock of the country in losing to Dublin’s supposed ‘third string’ in Drogheda last Sunday, Colin Kelly’s men put in a wonderful 70-minute display in Portlaoise tonight to beat the hosts with a resounding, if stylish, ease.
This time two-years ago, the Louth faithful were making the dreadful trudge home from their league opener in Enniskillen having been on the end of a drubbing. The team looked shapeless, almost hopeless, and with relegation to follow the county was in disarray.
24-months on and the Reds look the polar-opposites, it’s chalk and cheese in comparison. Looking leaner, fitter and hungrier, Kelly has got the team playing out of their skins in winning matches seemingly pulling-up. Five wins from six outings signals Louth’s best start to a season in six-years.
The side is transformed from the one who shipped defeat-after-defeat during Kelly’s first-year at the helm. The likes of Tommy Durnin and Bevan Duffy epitomise this change. The pair are playing the best football of their inter-county careers at present with Durnin showing an abundance of promise at midfield.
The biggest complement that you can pay the Westerns man is that supporters are no longer speaking of Paddy Keenan’s absence or a lack of leadership in the engine room, instead Durnin is the hot-topic.
Another two-points from play this evening brings the midfielder up to eight for the year, this is only part of what he gives you though. His general work rate, creativity and selflessness around the field is critical to the team functioning to its maximum
Similarly, Duffy and Páraic Smith are more than justifying their inclusions. Duffy also kicked two-points while he claimed a further four-marks in what was a strong individual display, while Smith stood out as the most intelligent footballer on the pitch. His 1-4 from play is the obvious reference point but instead it was the timing of his runs into those scoring positions which deserves high mention. He always seemed to arrive in the right place at the right time while his composure in front of the posts was top-class.
It really was an excellent all-round team display. Three-wides in all represents Louth’s lowest tally in a game since 2012, while 2-13 from play is their highest return from open play this season.
On the flip side though you must question if Laois were anywhere near the required standard on the night. In analysing his team’s performance, Kelly will have to make the call as to whether the result was down to his team’s excellence or Laois’ utter incompetence.
Ultimately, the answer lies somewhere in between.
Prior to throw-in, Kelly decided to play Ryan Burns and Ruairí Moore from the start and he was more than vindicated with the pair contributing four-points.
Burns got his first by putting Louth ahead seven-minutes in and they never looked back with Smith goaling just after the quarter-hour mark, having rounded both Eoin Buggie and keeper Graham Brody before dispatching to the net.
Their intricate hand-passing play was regularly carving the Midlanders open as Laois found themselves penned in and unable to implement whatever attacking plans they had rehearsed. Only for Donal Kingston frees the Reds would have raced out of sight.
Louth’s sixth point of the half came on 23 minutes and if you were looking for a prototype of effective, efficient modern-day football then this is your example.
A free-flowing attacking move which stemmed from Craig Lynch’s pinpoint kick-out to Moore resulted in Smith tapping over the bar at his leisure seven hand-passes later. It was a lethal score which saw Anthony Williams typically involved in the interchange phase.
Kingston and Danny Luttrell has glimpses of goal in the interim period, but thereafter it was a complete shut-out in the Louth defence with James Stewart and the tireless Durnin supplementing the mass numbers already camped inside the Laois scoring zone.
Indeed, Lynch saw only two of his 14 first-half kick-outs go astray and it was much to do with his distribution that got the Reds on the front foot. Another sublime find from the Naomh Mairtin keeper set Moore away to score a fine point which, following an excellent point from Stephen Attride and Kingston’s fourth, had Louth leading 1-8 to 0-6 at the interval.
The second-half started as the first had ended with Kelly’s team completely monopolising the play, although Duffy missed an open goal following a slip from Attride and despite Brody being absent from his goals.
He wasn’t made to pay though as Louth powered further ahead towards the end of the third-quarter, the period which saw their grip on last Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup Final diminish. Duffy, Williams and Durnin pointed before Andy McDonnell thundered the ball to the net having met an inch-perfect cross from Moore to leave Louth 2-11 to seven-points ahead.
Peter Creedon made several substitutions shortly after the break in an attempt to stem the relentless Louth tide but whatever comeback aspirations he had were all but ended when Colm Begley was sent-off for a second bookable offence 12-minutes from time.
Their race was run and Louth compounded the home side’s misery as they converted a further five-points in the final 10-minutes to leave O’Moore Park with two precious league points.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer though, Longford await in Drogheda next Sunday in what is another crucial outing.
Laois: Graham Brody; James Kelly, Denis Brody, Alan Farrell; Stephen Attride (0-1), Eoin Buggie, Colm Begley; Kevin Meaney, Darren Strong; Danny Luttrell (0-1), Ambrose Doran, Niall Donoher; Donal Conway, Donal Kingston (0-6, three frees), Eoin Lowry
Subs: Gary Walsh (0-1) for Luttrell (HT), Padraig McMahon for Kelly (42), Ross Munnelly for Lowry (45), Daniel O’Reilly for Meaney (49), Paul Kingston for Doran (52), Kieran Lillis (0-1) for Conway (61)
Yellow Card: Meaney (7), Strong (33), Begley (44 & 58),
Red Card: Begley (58)
Louth: Craig Lynch; Pádraig Rath, Patrick Reilly, Kevin Carr; Derek Maguire, Liam Dullaghan, Anthony Williams (0-2); Tommy Durnin (0-2), Andy McDonnell (1-1); James Stewart, Páraic Smith (1-4), Bevan Duffy (0-2); Ruairí Moore (0-1), Jim McEneaney, Ryan Burns (0-3, two frees)
Subs: Conal McKeever for Duffy (57), Ronan Holdcroft for Moore (59), Derek Crilly for McEneaney (59), John Bingham for Stewart (66), Sam Mulroy for Smith (66), Ross Nally (0-1, one free) for Burns
Yellow Card: Duffy (9), Burns (35), McDonnell (55), Stewart (63), Holdcroft (68)
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow)
Man of the Match: Tommy Durnin (Louth): Superb. Durnin is quickly putting together a vast collection of Man of the Match displays at the moment. He was excellent tonight in all facets as he got two wonderful scores from play, called several marks, carried out his defensive duties without fail and got through a trojan amount of work. His centre-field partnership with Andy McDonnell encompasses all the necessary ingredients for this level.