Smith hat-trick proves crucial as Faithful fall
A FINE second-half fightback saw Louth record an upset win when they defeated Offaly in O'Connor Park yesterday.
Offaly went in at the interval 2-6 to 1-4 ahead, but Louth went on a goal spree to take the points.
Unfortunately for them, results elsewhere means they won't go up but Louth will take plenty of consolation from win.
With both sides having only long shot chances of promotion, the first half was a predictably pedestrian affair. Goals from Ciaran McManus and Niall McNamee (penalty) put Offaly in the driving seat and they led by 2-2 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.
Louth, however, hung on grimly and a Paraic Smith goal kept them in touch at the break. They would have been closer only for a couple of fine saves from Alan Mulhall.
Offaly went 2-9 to 1-5 clear early in the second half and looked set to coast home but the complexion of the game changed when wing-back Conor Carroll received a straight red card after an off the ball incident in the 47th minute.
After that, Louth turned the screw, aided to an amazing extent by a very porous Offaly defence who never looked comfortable all afternoon -- with their full-back line particularly struggling.
Smith's punched goal brought Louth back into it, a Ken Casey goal kept Offaly in control and in the 55th minute, Smith completed his hat-trick of goals to cut the deficit to 3-9 to 3-7.
With victory in their sights, Louth were unstoppable. A JP Rooney goal put them in front for the first time since the first minute and he sealed their win with a second goal three minutes from time after typically calamitous defending by Offaly.
SCORES -- Louth: P Smith 3-0, JP Rooney 2-0, B White 0-4 (2f), A McDonnell 0-2, D Byrne, M Brennan, A Reid 0-1 each. Offaly: N McNamee 1-3 (1-0 pen), J Reynolds 0-4, C McManus (1 '45), K Casey (1f) 1-1 each, R Brady 0-1 (f).
LOUTH -- N Gallagher; D Byrne, D Finnegan, J O'Brien; R Finnegan, M Fanning, S Fitzpatrick; P Keenan, B White; M Brennan, A McDonnell, A Reid; C Judge, P Smith, JP Rooney. Subs: D Clarke for Judge (ht), R Greene for O'Brien (43), A Hoey for Brennan (68).
OFFALY -- A Mulhall; J Gallagher, P McConway, B Darby; C Carroll, R Dalton, C Kiely; J Coughlan, B Connor; R Brady, J Reynolds, C McManus; D Egan, K Casey, N McNamee. Subs: A Lynam for Egan (54), S Ryan for Coughlan (61), S Lonergan for Dalton (62).
REF -- R Moloney (Limerick).