Brave Reds drawn into relegation showdown
GAA Nicky Rackard Cup - Louth 0-18 Monaghan 0-18
Monaghan booked their place in the Nicky Rackard Cup semi-finals thanks to a hard-fought draw with Louth in Dundalk on Saturday afternoon. Louth meanwhile face Leitrim this weekend in a relegation playoff to decide whether they will be playing Lory Meagher or Nicky Rackard cup next season.
Louth began the match once again without the services of the Arthur brothers (Gerry and Niall) as the row over their eligibility to play with Louth rumbles on. The latest appeal from the Wee County was rejected on Friday evening by the CCCC.
Without the scoring prowess of Niall who scored no less than 6-32 during the successful division 3a campaign Louth looked blunt up top with goal chances few and far between for Phillip O'Brien's side. They did have however the placed ball skills of Paddy Lynch to rely on with the Fechins man showing unerring accuracy throughout the game scoring nine of his ten frees to keep the scoreboard ticking over for Louth.
The first half began with Louth taking an early lead through scores from Stephen Kettle and Paddy Lynch's first free of the day. Monaghan hit back with a couple of scores from Patrick Finnegan and Mark Treanor before Louth scored three frees in succession to open up a 0-5 to 0-2 lead.
The game was short of goal-mouth action and indeed it was the placed ball skills that were the main feature of the opening twenty minutes with six of the first nine scores coming from frees. Monaghan drew level ten minutes before half-time thanks to Fergal Rafter's third free of the game. The sides traded points three more times before the break before midfielder Mark Molloy put the home side in front with a well struck shot from distance to leave the scoreboard reading 0-10 to 0-9 in favour of Louth at the break.
Louth stretched their lead to two points just after the restart thanks to Paddy Lynch's fifth free of the match but that lead was soon wiped out as Rafter responded in kind with two frees of his own.
Two more Paddy Lynch free's gave Louth some breathing space before Trevor Hilliard's side levelled the game for the seventh time with two quickfire scores from Mark Treanor and Eamon Collins. Louth had a golden chance to score the first goal of the game when Gerard Smyth's attempt for a point hit the post and ran into the path of David Kettle but unfortunately for Louth the full forward couldn't collect the ball cleanly and the chance was lost.
Louth hit a timely purple patch scoring three of the next four points including an absolute monster free from Ronan Lynch from well inside his own half to go 0-18 to 0-15 as the game entered four minutes of injury time. Monaghan's chances of victory looked lost as referee Gearoid McGrath sent off midfielder Mark Treanor but there was to be late drama as the Farney men refused to give up the ghost.
Fergal Rafter's eighth and ninth frees of the day left the minimum between the sides before substitute Cathal Power drew the sides level at the death with a point from distance which proved to be the final score of a thrilling finale to the game.
Monaghan faced an anxious wait to see if they had done enough to qualify but once word filtered through that Wawrickshire had beaten Longford celebrations could begin in earnest for the Farney men. Meanwhile Louth face a relegation playoff against Leitrim this weekend.
Louth: S Hackett; M Wallace, M Lyons; C Seery; A McCrave, R Byrne 0-3 (0-3fs), S Kettle 0-1; D Ryan, M Molloy 0-1; P Lynch 0-10 (0-9fs), S Callan, S Conneely 0-1; G Smyth 0-1, D Kettle 0-1, J Crosbie. Subs: L Molloy for D Ryan (29), M Ryan for J Crosbie (51).
Monaghan: P Bermingham; J Guinan, K Cawley, B Flanagan; P Finnegan 0-1, P Treanor, M Murphy; M Treanor 0-2, A Kenny; C Boyle 0-1, F Rafter 0-10 (0-9fs), C McNally; C Flynn 0-1, E Collins 0-2, T Campbell. Subs: B McGuigan for C McNally (HT), C Power 0-1 for C Flynn (66).
Referee: Gearóid McGrath (Wexford).