McGrath’s two-in-a-row bid falls short as Down sink the Reds
PETE McGrath couldn’t mastermind a second successive opening-day victory over his native Down, as Louth started their Division 2 campaign on the back foot in Drogheda on Sunday.
Despite a solid start, and a spirited second-half comeback, the Reds never really looked like emulating Fermanagh’s heroic win in Newry 12 months ago.
That bright opening saw Louth edge ahead in the early stages, but playing with a strong breeze at their backs in the first-half, Down hit the front on 17 minutes and led all the way to the finish line.
But they had to scrap to get on top. Louth bossed possession in the first quarter, but seemed hesitant to shoot into the strong wind and by the 10th minute they had just a couple of Williams Woods frees to show for some expansive play.
The sizeable Down support must have been slightly concerned by their team’s start but they slowly dragged themselves into the game and four points without reply from Niall Donnelly, Aaron Morgan, Caolan Mooney and Shay Millar saw them open a two-point lead, 0-4 to 0-2.
But that Down purple patch didn’t check Louth’s early momentum and points from Woods and Tommy Durnin either side of a Darragh O’Hanlon free ensured their were still well in touch by the 29th minute, trailing 0-5 to 0-4.
Even when Aaron Morgan and Connaire Harrison made
it 7-4, Louth would have been happy enough with their lot at the interval, but they could easily have adjourned all square when Ger McSorley burst through on goal with the ball on the deck.
With plenty of options inside the Gaels attacker probably should have scooped the ball up but he flashed a shot from the ground across the face of goal and one of the few goal chances in the game went a begging.
When Durnin cut Louth’s deficit to two points after the break, the contest seemed delicately poised, but it was Down who seized the initiative with another four-point burst.
Eamon Burns started to ring the changes early in the second-half and the quality he was able to spring from the bench was to prove crucial as Kevin McKernan and Donal O’Hare found their range. With Darragh O’Hanlon calso onverting two more frees Down opened a six-point cushion by the end of the third quarter.
Louth looked all out of ideas at that stage, but they hit a purple patch of their own.
Woods slotted two more frees and in between Andy McDonnell and Derek Maguire kicked a couple of superb scores from the right to mmakr it 0-11 to 0-9.
Time was running out, but Louth seemed to have the momentum again and looked as likely to push on for victory opponents.
But almost as quickly as they raised supporters’ hopes, Down dashed them again as Harrison put three between the sides again.
From the resulting kick-out Craig Lynch returned possession straight to Harrison and he accepted the gift with open arms to put four between the sides, 0-13 to 0-9.
Louth were now almost certainly going to require a goal to rescue something from the game, but after Maguire pegged a point back it was Down who raised the first and only green flag of the game when Harrison fired to the bottom corner at the second attempt.
That was pretty much curtains for Louth as the sides traded a further point apiece in the final minutes of normal time, Woods converting another free and Caolan Mooney fisting over his second of the game from close range at the other end.
Tommy Durnin comes to Andy McDonnell’s aid as David McKibbin and Kevin MCKernan close in.
during Sunday’s Allianz League Division 2 clash in Drogheda. Pictures: Paul Connor