The Irish Mail on Sunday
Burns blasts Louth past Westmeath after a scare
WHEN Kieran Martin raced through the Louth cover to rattle the back of the net on 48 minutes and put Westmeath in front, it looked like the tide had turned in the home side’s favour.
With a stiff breeze in their favour and a partisan support in the 4,524 crowd, Paul Bealin’s side were in the driving seat, especially when James Dolan added to the lead.
Instead, they fell to pieces in the face of a powerful final quarter by Louth, led by Paddy Keenan from midfield and the scoring prowess of Derek Maguire up front.
The match will be remembered, too, for the first black card in the history of senior Championship football, Brian White shown it by referee Maurice Deegan after a challenge on Paul Sharry. More signifigantly though, Louth go on to meet Kildare in the next round.
The visitors took to the field for the pre-match warm-up in an array of different coloured club jerseys, supposedly the brainchild of midfield dynamo Paddy Keenan, the players clearly trying to trade on parish pride as much as county pride. Judging by the final result, it worked.
As a battle between two teams who suffered relegation in the spring, little wonder a sense of adventure was lacking from much of the play early on.
Aidan O’Rourke obviously hasn’t bought into the idea that Dublin’s model of all-out attack is the only way to win a Championship game.
They dropped a lot of bodies deep in trademark fashion and were content to hit on the counter, all fine and dandy except it hardly made best use of the fact that they had a strong breeze behind them in the first half.
Two early scores from Westmeath’s John Heslin then came against the grain, a neat left foot point following an early free and Martin curled over a lovely score from a tight angle on the left-hand side of the pitch to make it 0-3 to no score 13 minutes in.
Louth had to wait until the 16th minute to register their first score and there was a lesson in that white flag.
A rare long ball from the boot of Keenan was won by Shane Lennon, who turned sharply and pointed. That score seemed to give the team a shot of confidence and Andy McDonnell and Derek Maguire tagged on scores almost immediately afterwards.
Denis Glennon replied for Westmeath after being set up by a sweet pass from the classy Heslin, who was dropping deep from his listed full-forward role but Maguire hit two quality points down the other end to edge Louth in front for the first time 26 minutes in.
And he almost found the net, too, arrowing a shot past the goalkeeper but just wide of the far post.
Ger Egan levelled matters for the third time before Louth finished with a flourish -– Declan Byrne’s free from all of 45 metres with the outside of the boot the pick of three late scores to make it 0-8 to 0-5 at the break, Louth left to rue 11 wides.
Ger Egan quickly reduced that deficit on the restart as Westmeath gave further notice of their intent.
Substitute David McCormack plucked a skyscraper of a long ball out of the sky and turned to unleash a blistering shot goalwards only for Neil Gallagher to parry it to safety.
Keenan’s influence on the game was passing with every minute, though, and his point on the run drew a large cheer from the visiting support.
Then, on 45 minutes, Declan Byrne’s mishit shot dropped into Derek Maguire’s hands and put him straight in on goal but Paul Sharry did so well to thwart his shot to the extent that he ended up toe-poking the ball goalwards only to see it saved by Kieran Gavin.
Just to force the issue, Westmeath goaled three minutes later, Martin galloping on to a pass from Callum McCormack to send an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net.
James Dolan bombed over a further point from distance only for Keenan to lead the Louth fightback, his two points leaving his side trailing by the minimum entering the final quarter.
Louth substitute Ryan Burns made a big impact, picking up a pass in space and firing to the net. It was the critical score, Louth tagging on points from Derek Maguire despite losing White to that black card. Louth: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G O Hare; D Crilly, J O’Brien, A Reid; P Keenan (0-3), M Fanning; D Maguire (0-5), B White, A McDonnell (0-2); S Lennon (0-1), C Grimes, D Byrne (0-3, 2f). Subs: R Burnes (1-0) for S Lennon, B Donnelly for M Fanning, both 56; J Stewart for B White, 56 (black card); P Reilly for A Reid, 67; J Gonoud for R Foley, 68 WeStmeath: D Quinn; Damian Dolan, K Maguire, K Gavin; R Foley, P Sharry, J Dolan (0-1); D Duffy, R Connellan; K Martin (1-1), C McCormack, G Egan (0-2); D Glennon (0-1), J Heslin (0-3, 1f), Dessie Dolan (0-1). Subs: D McCormack for R Connellan, 29; D Harte for D Dolan, 61; A Giles for C McCormack, 65 RefeRee: M Deegan (Laois).