Sunday 19 January 2020

New dawn ... but same old home discomfort

GAA Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup: Westmeath 1-13 Louth 0-11

Dan Bannon at the Gaelic Grounds

At first glance an insignificant O'Byrne Cup defeat to ring in the New Year might not be the most likely place to start a revolution, but off the field in Drogheda there was the feeling of a new dawn for Louth football.

With new Chairman Peter Fitzpatrick present in the stands and new PRO Mark Byrne's warm voice welcoming patrons on the Tannoy, change was in the air.

On the pitch, a pre season semi final place went a begging as Louth's abysmal 'home' form in Drogheda continued.

Despite the five point loss, Wayne Kierans used the competitive pre-season-ender to good effect, blooding players and now knows exactly where the problems lie with the National League looming at the end of the month.

The game hinged on Ronan Wallace's goal on the 28th minute. The score ignited an unanswered 1-3 from Westmeath at the end of the first half. With the four point lead established and their packed defence easily dealing with Louth's blunt attacking play, there was an air of inevitability about the second half.

Ryan Burns, Conor Grimes and Sam Mulroy are three set to return and Ciaran Byrne also came off the bench to somewhat ease the offensive anxiety ahead of the trip to Longford at the end of January in the Division 3 opener.

Louth played well in patches and dominated possession for the majority. This suited Westmeath though and the goal stemmed from an unforced error from Tommy Durnin when in a promising position.

Centre forward Conor McCormack sent a direct ball to talisman John Heslin to set up the counter attacking finish from Wallace.

When Kierans men kept possession they found their range from distance - Emmett Carolan and Gerry Garland with a late run to score in his first start in red. Noticeably it was in implementing the new rules that Louth found the only penetration inside, with Declan Byrne landing three marks in total.

Four down at the turn, 1-7 to 0-6, Kierans brought in four replacements at the interval signalling his intent or lack of intent to advance in the competition. One of those quartet introduced, Eoghan Duffy, raised the white flag to narrow the gap to three.

From that point on, Westmeath were able to manage the game, keep the margin and pick Louth off at will, typified by Noel Mulligan adding his second point.

Louth were handed an opportunity to get into the game when Lakeside midfielder Denis Coroon was sin binned but the numerical disadvantage didn't hamper the visitors' defensive structure all that much.

Another body plugged the hole for Jack Cooney's side, but Byrne tried to force the matter with three second-half points as his younger brother joined him inside for a look at a potential league line-up.

Five more subs were brought in for Louth in the second half which fragmented their charge, and Westmeath's greater experience and will to advance saw them over the line down the stretch.

Heslin and replacement Callum McCormack added a brace apiece, along with one of their better known players - Kieran Martin - also landing a point. Louth now look to the league opener to implement the resolutions.

LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, Niall Sharkey; Eoghan Callaghan, Emmet Carolan 0-1, John Clutterbuck; Tommy Durnin 0-1, Paul Mathews; Gerry Garland 0-1, Ciaran Downey 0-1 (1f), Matt Corcoran; Conall McKeever, Declan Byrne 0-5 (3m, 2f), John Gallagher. Subs: Liam Jackson for Clutterbuck (h-t), Bevan Duffy for Durnin (h-t), Oísin Murray for M Corcoran (h-t), Eoghan Duffy 0-1 for Gallagher (h-t), Ciaran Byrne for Garland (51), Jack Murphy for Sharkey (55), James Califf 0-1 for Mathews (60), Sean Murray for McKeever (61), Cathal Bellew for Campbell (64).

WESTMEATH: Eoin Carberry; Kevin Maguire , Bodiu Sayeh, Ciaran Slevin; Anthony McGivney 0-1, Ronan Wallace 1-0, Killian Daly; Denis Coroon, Noel Mulligan 0-2; David Lynch 0-1, Conor McCormack, Noel O'Reilly 0-1; Kieran Martin 0-1, Darren Giles 0-1, John Heslin 0-4 (3f, 1m). Subs: Callum McCormack 0-2 for McCormack (46), Alan Stone for Lynch (60), Adam Neary for O'Reilly (65), Lorcan Dolan for Giles (72).

REF: Seamus Farrelly (Dublin)

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