Fallon fuels Roscommon as Louth let big lead slip
LOUTH hurling enthusiasts may remember Gerry Fallon for his 2009 Poc Fada heroics on Annaverna Mountain, but if they needed a refresher the Roscommon sharp-shooter was only too happy to oblige in Darver on Sunday.
The Orna clubman rattled off 14 scores from dead balls, accounting for all bar two of his team's 16-point tally, while he also played a big part in Niall Kilroy's crucial second-half goal.
That strike and another three-pointer eight minutes later from Cillian Egan helped the Rossies to overturn a six-point half-time deficit, but ultimately it was Fallon's nerveless display that edged the visitors over the finish line.
Louth may feel that Meath referee Fergus Smith was a little too hasty with his whistle on occasion, but given Fallon's mood, Reds manager Dee McCarthy will be more concerned with his side's failure to adapt to the official's zero-tolerance and often fussy approach.
Fallon gratefully gobbled up every opportunity north of his own 65m line, and he was responsible for all seven of Roscommon's first-half scores, but Louth were definitely the better team before the break and were fully deserving of their half-time cushion.
The opening 10 minutes was even enough and both sides passed up decent goal chances. Cathal Kelly pulled a ground shot wide of the target with the goal at his mercy on eight minutes and from a similar position at the other end, Gary Rellis just didn't get enough purchase on his effort to trouble a covering defender.
Roscommon edged 0-3 to 0-2 in front in the eleventh minute, but Louth bossed the remainder of the half.
A brace of frees from Murphy, followed by a couple of sweet strikes from Shane Callan made it 0-6 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Fallon's accuracy kept Roscommon in touch, but Louth eventually pulled clear as half-time approached.
They re-opened a three-point gap with another brace from Murphy, but the turning point arrived on the half-hour mark when Andrew Mackin pulled on a losse ball to net the first goal of the game.
Fallon and Murphy exchanged frees before the half-time whistle, but Louth retired much the happier, sporting a 1-10 to 0-7 advantage.
Roscommon were a rejuvenated force after the restart and plundered 1-1 in the opening seven minutes.
Kilroy netted the goal, making him the first Roscommon player other than Fallon to hit the target.
Their first point from play was a little longer in the making, but Tomas Seale's effort brought the sides level for the first time since the 12th minute.
Louth were really struggling to regain a foothold at that stage, and they coughed up another goal moments later, as Kilroy teed up Cillian Egan for a simple finish.
Murphy finally broke Louth's second-half duck with a brace of frees to put just a point between the sides with a quarter of the contest to play.
The hosts needed to push on and recapture some of their first-half swagger, but instead it was Roscommon who turned the screw and in a decisive 10-minute spell, Fallon added five more frees, including one from 70 metres and way out on the touchline and another from his OWN 65m line.
Louth responded again through Ronan Byrne and Murphy (from a free) to cut the gap to four points and Gary Rellis very nearly set up a grandstand finish when his piledriver from 30 metres had to be parried over the bar by Roscommon 'keeper Padraig Dolan.
The Reds continued to probe for an equalising goal, but it was Roscommon who conjured an insurance score as Cillian Egan slotted over what was only their second point from play in the entire contest.
That's a bizarre statistic for Dee McCarthy and his players to ponder, but it's also one the will stow away should the sides meet again in a League final or Nicky Rackard Cup clash.
If they can cut off Fallon's supply lines, this result could easily be reversed.
ROSCOMMON: Padriag Dolan; Shane Curley, Ronan O Meara , Ian Delaney; John Rodgerson, Micheal Kelly, Cathal Dolan; John Moran, Sean Melia; Tomas Seale 0-1, Gerry Fallon 0-14f, Cathal Kelly; David Dolan, Niall Kilroy 1-0, Cillian Egan 1-1. Subs: N Connaughton for D Dolan (58).
LOUTH: James Connolly; Paddy McCormack, Johnny Carter, Andrew McCrave; Conor Kerrigan, Cian Hayes, Cathal Ryan; Jason Condon, Shane Callan; 0-2 Andrew Mackin 1-0, Gary Rellis 0-1, Darren O'Hanrahan; David Kettle, Diarmuid Murphy 0-10 (0-2f), Gerard Smyth 0-1. Subs: Ronan Byrne 0-1 for O'Hanrahan (40), David Mahoney for Smyth (51), Shane Maguire for Condon (60), Ian Kelleher for Kerrigan (67).
REFEREE: Fergus Smith (Meath).