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Saturday 18 November 2017

Louth prove a step too far for experimental side

Leinster JFC: Louth 2-11 Wicklow 0-10

John Manley and Eddie Doyle join forces to stop Louth’s Robert Brodigan
John Manley and Eddie Doyle join forces to stop Louth’s Robert Brodigan

What may well be the first inter-county team at adult level to be created through a social media appeal made a swift exit from the Leinster Junior football championship at the hands of Louth last Wednesday evening in Drogheda.

The appeal proved quite successful with a fine panel of players from around the county committing to the Junior cause under Johnny Magee but victory evaded them with the lack of familiarity with each other one cause for the loss.

Despite the Junior Leinster semi-final defeat to Louth by seven points, Wicklow boss Johnny Magee felt that the side played well overall and that there were plenty of positives to take away.

"I thought all in all there were some really good performances and for a team that was literally just put together in the week leading up to the match they gelled okay.

"The two goals were really soft and they basically killed any chance of a win but it was good for the players on show to get exposed to that level of playing and some guys really put their hand up as well."

Asked whether any of the players may receive a call up to the senior set up, Magee was somewhat reluctant in his response.

"Although there were some really strong performances you can't underestimate the step up to senior county level. It takes months if not years for players to get to them levels of fitness and get used to having that little bit less time on the ball so to draft players in on such short notice is probably not realistic.

"We obviously keep an eye on what's going on and in the club championship as well if any players are coming strongly but it was a good game and a good experience for those players nonetheless," he told reporter Conor Hatton on Monday afternoon last.

It's Louth and Meath who will clash for provincial honours for the first time since 2010 after the northeast neighbours negotiated Leinster Junior semi-final clashes against Magee's men and Wexford.

With Louth only permitted to field players from intermediate and junior clubs this season, the final venue is a huge bonus for Ollie McDonnell and his players and with the game acting as a curtain-raiser to Dublin's Leinster semi-final with Westmeath or Offaly, there should be a big crowd at HQ, even it's just for the closing stages of the derby showdown.

With only five teams taking part in the competition, the Garden county received a bye in the quarter-finals, so Louth did have the advantage of playing a game together prior to the semi-final joust.

That certainly seemed to stand to the home side in the opening stages as the in-form William Woods inspired them to a dream start.

The Finbarr's sharpshooter helped himself to 2-4 over the hour and he was off the mark inside two minutes with his first goal.

It was a scrappy one from Longford's point of view as the corner forward nudged a loose ball past Rathnew's Peter Dignam and flicked to an empty net.

Unfortunately, the strike was a bit of a false dawn and a Woods free was the only other score registered in the opening quarter.

Eddie Doyle eventually got Wicklow off the mark, but Louth rediscovered their scoring touch and with Woods and Conall O'Hanlon wreaking havoc in the full forward line they pushed on to lead by 1-6 to 0-2 at the interval.

The pacey Dean Maguire ensured Louth picked up where they left off after the break and Woods ensured it was all over bar the shouting with his second goal after just five minutes, making it 2-8 to 0-3.

Again the Wicklow defending left a bit to be desired, but when the ball fell to Woods on the deck, the Ardee Celtic striker composed himself before firing low past the 'keeper.

A combination of Louth idling a bit in front and Wicklow finally finding some traction, saw the visitors kick four points without reply to close the gap to seven points by the end of the third quarter.

But Louth didn't let them get any closer as Colm Giggins, Ciaran Sheridan and Conal O'Hanlon put double digits between the sides once again, 2-11 to 0-7.

Wicklow managed another purple patch, kicking the last three points of the match, but the issue was well decided by that stage.

Louth: Robert Sansom, Barry Reynolds, Kieran Lenehan, Cillian Kirk, Niall Sharkey, David Quigley, Michael McDonald, Robert Brodigan, Daniel O'Connell, Ciaran Sheridan (0-1), Dean Maguire (0-1), Colm Giggins (0-1), Cian Callan, Conal O'Hanlon (0-4), William Woods (2-4, 2f). Subs: Mark Hoey for K Lenehan, Peter Nixon for C Giggins, Aaron O'Brien for D Maguire, Barry O'Hare for W Woods, Andrew Mooney for M McDonald, Conor Early for C Callan.

Wicklow: Peter Dignam, Padraig Higgins, Chris O'Brien, John Manley, Martin Cullen (0-2), Eoin Murtagh, Chris Healy, Theo Smith, Paul Murtagh, Eddie Doyle (0-5, 4f), Padraig Byrne, Cathal Fitzgerald, Stephen Duffy, Mark Doyle (0-2f), Josh O'Callaghan. Subs: Sean McGraynor (0-1) for S Duffy (BC), Alan Daly for J O'Callaghan, Paul O'Brien for P Murtagh), Liam Kinsella for C Healy, Simon Boucher for C Fitzgearld.

Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly).

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