Louth ready to exorcise demons as Burns magic sets up Royal showdown
Louth 2-24 Carlow3-11
Louth booked a quarter-final date with Meath after eventually seeing off a stubborn Carlow side in O'Moore Park on Saturday.
Colin Kelly's charges turned in a typical opening-round display - plenty to be happy with, plenty to work on - but it wasn't really as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
Carlow doggedly remained in their slipstream for most of the game before fading away in the last ten minutes.
They must now walk a familiar path in the qualifiers, but Louth certainly have enough about them to go to Navan in the quarter-finals and exorcise a few demons.
They started impressively here, going four points ahead with a little over ten minutes gone, but in a worrying trend for manager Colin Kelly, his team repeatedly struggled to retain the upper hand.
Sean Gannon had given Carlow an early lead, but Louth responded in ruthless fashion, as they rattled off five scores without reply.
James Califf opened their account and a steady flow of scores followed, with Ryan Burns (free), Declan Byrne, Jim McEneaney and a beautiful curling effort from Derek Maguire putting a spring in their step.
Carlow were on the rack, but Benny Kavanagh cut the gap as he finished off a wonderful flowing move.
That sparked their best spell of that half, as Brendan Murphy pointed twice from distance, Paul Broderick added one from play, and Carlow now found themselves within two points of Louth with 24 minutes gone.
When they needed to, however, they couldn't kick on.
Burns curled over a free to get Louth back on an even keel, and McEneaney pushed them further ahead.
Another McEneaney score was followed by Califf's second of the half to put six between the sides as half-time loomed.
Carlow captain Darragh Foley managed to get a point back from a free, but at the interval Louth were on top, 0-11 to 0-6.
The second half began with Carlow a transformed side, and they took the game to Louth from the off.
Foley pointed a free before a brilliant save from Robbie Molloy denied Anthony Williams a goal.
From that stop, Carlow worked the ball down the right wing, where Murphy's shot from a tight angle dropped just short of the crossbar.
His disappointment was only momentary though, as Craig Lynch failed to hold the ball and Chris Blake got his hand to it, forcing the game's first goal.
Carlow were now within one, but again couldn't press home their dominance as Louth went on a five-to-one scoring run to give themselves some breathing space.
Carlow, however, were soon suffocating them again.
Darragh O'Brien's brilliant, jinking run in the 55th minute ended with a superb goal, and a grandstand finish was on the cards.
Unfortunately, it never really played out like that, as Louth just kept picking off points, with Burns to the fore, as they edged home.
Injury-time goals from Ryan Burns and Anthony Williams added gloss, but they were more than safe by then, making Broderick's late penalty a mere consolation for Carlow.
SCORERS - Louth: R Burns 1-7 (0-6fs), J Califf 0-5 (3fs), J McEneaney 0-3, A Williams 1-0, D Maguire, D Byrne, C Grimes 0-2 each, J Stewart, G McSorley, R Holdcroft 0-1 each. Carlow: D Foley 0-5fs, P Broderick 1-1 (1-0pen, 0-1f), D O'Brien, C Blake 1-0 each, B Murphy 0-2, B Kavanagh, J Murphy, S Gannon 0-1 each.
LOUTH - C Lynch 6; P Rath 6, P Reilly 6, K Toner 6; D Maguire 8, D McMahon 7, A Williams 7; J Stewart 7, J Califf 8; D Byrne 6, J McEneaney 7, C McKeever 6; B Duffy 6, C Grimes 7, R Burns 8. Reps: R Moore 6 for Duffy (45), G McSorley 6 for McKeever (64), R Holdcroft for McEneaney (71).
CARLOW - R Molloy 8; B Kavanagh 7, D St Ledger 6, K Nolan 6; G Kelly 6, J Murphy 7, H Gahan 6; Brendan Murphy 7, S Gannon 6; D Lunney 6, D O'Brien 7, A Kelly 6; P Broderick 6, D Foley 7, C Blake 6. Subs: Brian Murphy 6 for Lunney (49), G Power 6 for J Murphy (59), D Smithers for Blake (70), E Finnegan for Kelly (70).
Ref - N Mooney (Cavan).