A 'Wee' Bray of sunshine for Reds
GAA, Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup: Louth 1-17 Wicklow 1-9
The Louth senior footballers bounced back impressively from their opening O'Byrne Cup defeat to Wexford with a resounding victory over a dire Wicklow side in Bray last Saturday afternoon.
Pleasantly mild conditions greeted Wayne Kierans' men at the north Wicklow venue, where a battle was expected given that the Garden County men had run Longford close in their opening joust in dreadful conditions at Newtownforbes.
The Wee County side showed seven changes from the side that fell to Wexford in their first foray into the O'Byrne Cup.
Fergal Sheeky started in place of Alan McGauley in goals and there was no place for Philip Englishby in the full-back line as James Craven took his place. There were two changes in the half-back line, with Anthony Williams and Bevan Duffy joining John Clutterbuck.
Midfield remained unchanged, with Tommy Durnin and Conor Earley putting in good shifts, but Conall McKeever was the only surviving member of the half-forward line as he was accompanied by Andy McDonnell and Ruairi Moore.
The full-forward line saw Tadgh McEneaney drop to the bench as Sam Mulroy, who goaled after coming on as a sub against Wexford, took his place alongside Ryan Burns and Jim McEneaney.
Things looked bright from a Louth perspective after they recovered from a positive Wicklow start that saw the home side open up a two-point lead through scores from Conor McGraynor (free) and Padraig O'Toole from play.
Kierans' men showed the beginnings of what would become blatantly obvious superiority when they rampaged out to a 1-2 to 0-2 lead by the seventh minute.
Burns opened their account, and this was swiftly followed by a superb Craven score after great work from McKeever.
Then came the Louth goal, finished low to the back of Robert Lambert's net by Clutterbuck. The Mairtins man's two half back colleagues were involved in the build-up, with the excellent Duffy feeding Williams who provided the scoring pass as Louth simply ripped Wicklow apart up the middle.
A wide apiece followed and then Louth suffered what looked to be a bad blow in terms of their prospects when McDonnell was shown a straight red card by Longford official Patrick Maguire for a foul on Wicklow corner-back Jamie Snell.
Any hopes Wicklow might have had that this would swing things in their favour were quickly dashed as Louth kept ahead of the home side throughout the first half, although John Evans' side did close to within a single point when Gearoid Murphy lashed home a wonderful goal past Sheeky in the 28th minute.
Louth points from Mulroy (two), Burns (three frees) and Jim McEneaney left the visitors in a healthy position at the break - 1-8 to 1-6.
The second half was nothing short of a nightmare for an experimental Wicklow, who would make 10 changes over the 70 minutes. Louth were completely dominant and could break up the field and point with ease. Among the scorers were Williams, Durnin (free), Declan Byrne (two), Earley, Mulroy (two, one free) and Ciaran Downey (two).
And so the 14-man Reds cruised to an eight-point victory that, while welcome, will also be regarded as facile, to a certain extent. Tougher tasks no doubt lie ahead.
Scorers: Louth - Sam Mulroy 0-4 (1f), Ryan Burns 0-4 (3f), John Clutterbuck 1-0, Declan Byrne 0-2, Ciaran Downey 0-2, Conor Earley 0-1, Tommy Durnin 0-1 (f), Anthony Williams 0-1, James Craven 0-1, Jim McEneaney 0-1; Wicklow - Rory Finn 0-4 (3f), Gearoid Murphy 1-0, Conor McGraynor 0-1, Anto McLoughlin 0-1, Fintan O'Shea 0-1, Ross Davis 0-1, Padraig O'Toole 0-1.
Louth: Fergal Sheeky; Hugh Osborne, Dan Corcoran, James Craven; Anthony Williams, Bevan Duffy, John Clutterbuck; Tommy Durnin, Conor Earley; Conall McKeever, Andy McDonnell, Ruairi Moore; Ryan Burns, Sam Mulroy, Jim McEneaney. Subs: Declan Byrne for Moore (HT), Ciarán Downey for J McEneaney (HT), Ronan Holcroft for McKeever (42min), Niall Conlon for Burns (52), Fergal Donohoe for Craven (52), Darren Marks for Clutterbuck (57), Tadhg McEnaney for Mulroy (62).
Wicklow: Robert Lambert; Jamie Snell, Ross O'Brien, Tom Maher; Darragh Fitzgerald, Shane Mooney, Fintan O'Shea; Dean Healy, Conor McGraynor; Padraig O'Toole, Anthony McLoughlin, Rory Finn; Gearóid Murphy, Chris O'Brien, Patrick O'Connor. Subs: Karl Kirwan for J Snell (14min), Jamie Snell for T Maher (20), Mark Jackson for R Lambert (HT), Conor Healy for D Fitzgerald (HT), Mark Fitzsimons for S Mooney (44), Niall Meldon for C O'Brien (48), Michael Mangan for G Murphy (57), Ross Davis for P O'Connor (57), Jamie Miley for F O'Shea (60), Cormac O'Shea for A McLoughlin (64), Shane Mooney for D Healy (67).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford)