Conor Grimes' late goal helps Louth to Division Four title
LOUTH 3-12 ANTRIM 1-14
An injury-time goal from Conor Grimes helped Louth secure the Division 4 Allianz Football League title with a famous comeback victory against Antrim at Croke Park this evening.
Goals win matches and second-half strikes from Grimes and man-of-the-match Jim McEnaeney tipped the balance as Colin Kelly's side secured some rare silverware at headquarters.
It looked unlikely for long periods as Antrim, buoyed by a first-half major from Matthew Fitzpatrick, were much the better in the opening half and held a 1-9 to 1-5 lead at the break.
They extended their lead to five points upon the resumption with Tomás McCann on-song in attack but a 22-minute barren spell would be their undoing and Grimes' late goal was the match-winner.
Tomás McCann and Brian Neeson (free) got Antrim on the scoreboard early but the men from the Wee county responded with a brilliant goal from Derek Maguire, who finished with 1-2 from half-back.
Louth led 1-3 to 0-5 after 15 minutes but Frank Fitzsimons' Antrim took complete control thereafter with McCann on target from placed balls and Matthew Fitzpatrick hitting a fine goal.
The one-way traffic continued early into the second half as the men from the Glens stretched their lead to five, 1-11 to 1-6, but all of a sudden Louth began to gain a foothold in the game.
James Califf, Ryan Burns and Declan Byrne were all having more of an influence on proceedings and McEnaeney's 59th minute, after just returning from a blood injury, proved the catalyst for success.
That pushed Louth ahead, 2-9 to 1-11, but Patrick McBride eventually broke Antrim's scoring duck on the hour mark and Conor Murray followed up to level affairs.
Burns and McCann trade frees and the sides were level going into injury time but Antrim would not score again as Grimes' 71st minute goal, as well as an insurance score from the excellent Maguire, sealed the deal.
The triumph will be a massive boost for a young Louth side ahead of their Leinster SFC preliminary round meeting with Carlow on May 14. It was not to be for Antrim but they will still join Louth in Division 3 next season.
SCORERS – Louth – D Maguire 1-2, R Burns (3f) 0-4, J McEnaeney 1-1 (0-1 s/l), D Byrne 0-3, C Grimes 1-0, J Califf (2f) 0-2. Antrim – T McCann 0-8 (6f), M Fitzpatrick 1-1, C Murray 0-2, B Neeson, P McBride and R Johnson 0-1 each.
LOUTH: C Lynch; P Rath, P Reilly, K Toner; D Maguire, D McMahon, E Lafferty; J Stewart, J Califf; D Byrne, J McEneaney, T Durnin; C McKeever, C Grimes, R Burns. Subs: J Bingham for K Toner (13), A Williams for J Bingham (BC 35 +1), R Moore for D McMahon (43), G McSorley for J McEneaney (BS 51), J McEneaney for G McSorley (57), G McSorley for R Burns (75).
ANTRIM: C Kerr; N Delargy, C Burke, R Johnson; K O’Boyle, M Johnson, J Laverty; M McCann; J Carron; N McKeever, K Niblock, C Murray; B Neeson, M Fitzpatrick, T McCann. Subs: R Murray for B Neeson (48), P McBride for J Carron (53), D McAleese for M Fitzpatrick (58), M Sweeney for J Laverty (63), J Crozier for C Burke (67).
REF – J Henry (Mayo).