Laois claim share of spoils as O'Loughlin leads revival
GARY WALSH pointed a free two minutes from the end of a pulsating match at O'Moore Park as Laois recovered from a five-point deficit to claim a draw.
With both teams set to meet in the opening round of the Leinster championship on May 26, this game whetted the appetite.
Louth opened up sizeable leads in both halves, but they couldn't hold out in the face of sustained pressure from Laois.
The opening 10 minutes offered little hint of what was to come, with both teams managing just one point each. After that, the pace picked up and the scores came thick and fast.
Louth, led by the impressive Shane Lennon, scored five points in the space of six minutes to open up a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage by the 20th minute. Laois were offering little in attack, with their passing and shooting either rushed or wildly off target, but they gradually found their form.
Colm Begley and Ross Munnelly (free) gave them a foothold, and they grew in stature from there until John O'Loughlin moved out to midfield from centre-back and scored the game's first goal. He took a pass from Brendan Quigley 45 yards out and sprinted clear to fire past Neil Gallagher.
One more point apiece saw the teams level at half-time, 1-6 to 0-9. Laois started the second half the way they finished the first, with Walsh's free after 46 seconds putting them in front.
Their lead didn't last long, with the outstanding Derek Maguire, introduced as a substitute just before half-time, starting a move which ended with a goal for Andy McDonnell.
But every time Justin McNulty's side threatened to get close, Louth would respond at the other end. Maguire was leading the charge, with his pace causing Laois countless problems and, with momentum in their favour, Louth struck for another goal, from Kevin Rogers, to go five ahead.
That was the cue for Laois to spring back into life and, led by captain O'Loughlin, they launched a comeback. O'Loughlin won a free for Walsh to slot over before pointing himself, and three more unanswered scores had Laois back level with six minutes remaining.
Louth thought they had won it when Brian White scored his second '45', but Walsh found the target from a free to rescue a draw.
Man of the match: Derek Maguire (Louth)
SCORERS – Laois: R Munnelly (3f), G Walsh (3f) 0-5 each, J O'Loughlin 1-2, C Begley, MJ Tierney (1 '45') 0-2 each, B Sheehan 0-1. Louth: K Rogers 1-3 (0-2f), B White 0-4 (2f, 2 '45'), A McDonnell 1-1, S Lennon 0-3, R Carroll, D Crilly, A Reid 0-1
LAOIS – E Culliton 8; D Booth 6, M Timmons 6, P O'Leary 7; D Strong 6, J O'Loughlin 9, C Boyle 7; B Quigley 7, K Meaney 6; R Munnelly 7, C Coss 6, C Begley 7; MJ Tierney 7, G Walsh 7, B Sheehan 6. Subs: C Healy 6 for Strong (44), C Kelly 6 for Coss (47), P McMahon for Meaney (67)
LOUTH: N Gallagher 7; J O'Brien 6, D Finnegan 7, G Hoey 6; D Crilly 7, M Fanning 7, A Reid 8; P Keenan 7, B Donnelly 7; B White 8, R Carroll 7, A McDonnell 7; P Smith 6, S Lennon 8, K Rogers 8. Subs: D Maguire 9 for Smith (33), C Rafferty 6 for Lennon (47), D Clarke 6 for Carroll (54), D Reid for Rogers (68)
Ref – P O'Sullivan (Kerry)