Wicklow do enough
Wicklow 3-14 Louth 3-11
Wicklow 'B' turned in a workmanlike performance to see off Louth at the Wee County's Centre of Excellence in Darver on Sunday afternoon last in their second outing in the Kehoe Cup competition.
Under the watchful eye of county manager Seamus Murphy along with selector Michael Anthony O'Neill, the Wicklow second string did enough to secure the victory in bitterly cold but dry conditions with strong showings from the returning Jonathan O'Neill Snr, full-forward George O'Brien, centre half-forward Gerry Connors and Peter Keane to name but a few.
In truth, Wicklow's half-time lead of 2-07 to 1-06 should have been much higher but for Stephen Hackett pulling off two superb reflex saves from the hurl of George O'Brien in the opening 35.
Conversely, had Louth possessed a finisher in the style of O'Brien things could have been radically different as the home side worked themselves into plenty of positions of potential only for the last ball to go astray or fail to be controlled.
Louth had numerous quality performers over the 70 minutes. Ronan Geoghegan proved well capable from frees, his 1-06 a decent return for his efforts. Shane Callan battled bravely against George O'Brien until injury curtailed his appearance, while Niall Devlin looked a real handful after being named in the starting 15 in place of Paddy McCormack from the off.
In the biting cold of Darver, both teams went at it hell for leather in the opening 35 with George O'Brien, Jonathan 'Bosco' O'Neill Snr and Gerry Connors proving the real difference with O'Brien bagging two sweet goals in that opening period.
O'Neill controlled matters around the middle to a certain extent while Connors served as provider of decent ball inside.
At the back Billy Cuddihy impressed in spells while John Connors and Darragh Maloney did their best to keep a tight rein on an energetic but blunt Louth full-forward line.
Ronan Geoghegan opened the scoring after 60 seconds when he lobbed over a sweet score from a free and the half-forward clocked up the game's first wide a moment later after a good attack for the Wee County.
A fine Gerry Connors effort drew the sides level, the St Pat's man benefitting from a loose Louth groundstroke from defence after 'Bosco' O'Neill had launched a long ball from deep.
A foul on Connors allowed 'Bosco' fire Wicklow ahead before Geoghegan answered the Glenealy man's strike with a sweet white flag of his own with six gone.
A dainty Gerry Connors ball down the line was collected by the impressive James Cranley with Stephen Kettle hot on his heels. A neat sidestep from the Éire Óg Greystones man gave him a few feet of room and he stroked over a confident score to make it 0-03 to 0-02 for the visitors with nine minutes on the clock.
The potential to cause havoc on Stephen Hackett's goal by George O'Brien, Paul O'Brien and James Cranley was realised after 12 minutes when a tasty Gerry Connors ball to the unmarked Cranley saw the corner-forward rampage down on the Louth goal and flick a neat handpass out to O'Brien who had plenty to do against the formidable Mike Lyons after the St Pat's man lost Shane Callan but O'Brien walloped home to the roof of Hackett's net for the game's opening goal.
Louth recovered well after the concession of the goal with points from Geoghegan (free) and Gerard Smith from play and they were well served by Hackett who pulled off the first of his excellent saves from O'Brien after 18 minutes.
A 65 from 'Bosco' was replied to by Niall Devlin and a George O'Brien peach was answered by a wicked Shane Maguire effort and we had a decent game on our hands at 1-05 to 0-06 with 25 on the clock.
James Cranley pushed Wicklow three clear moments later before Ronan Geoghegan made an absolute nuisance of himself on the Wicklow line before horsing the ball over the line to level matters at 1-06 apiece with 31 gone.
Louth were in a good place at this point in time but Wicklow always looked threatening when O'Brien got that ball and he fired home low and hard past Hackett after 34 to return the visitors to the lead, and a point from Gerry Connors left the half-time tally at 2-07 to 1-06.
The opening eight minutes of the second half were nip and tuck. Paul O'Brien opened the scoring before Paul Matthews replied. Good work from Kilcoole's Luke Evans allowed 'Bosco' a chance to point but John Martin hit back for Louth moments before Niall Devlin found the back of Conor McNally's net with a sweet groundstroke to leave Louth just a single point behind.
But 'Bosco' took control for the next few minutes and all of a sudden Louth were six points down after the Glenealy legend bagged 1-02, the goal a stunning strike after a helpful layoff from Drew Brennan.
Michael Ryan reduced the deficit with an opportunist's goal after a Ronan Geoghegan free dropped short and was batted down in the Wicklow square where Ryan pounced to make it 3-11 to 3-08 in favour of the Wicklow men.
Louth got it back to a two-point difference and were given an extra boost with Wicklow's Michael Connors picking up a red card after an incident with Connor Deane.
Seamus Murphy had switched Jack Doyle with Paul O'Brien early in the second half but pulled the Carnew man back to half-back after the sending off.
'Bosco' pulled Wicklow three ahead with a pointed free.
Back to two we went thanks to a Mark Molloy effort, but points by Gerry Connors and Luke Evans pushed Wicklow out to a four-point lead before Ronan Geoghegan bagged the final effort of the game to make it 3-14 to 3-11 and secure a deserved three-point win for Wicklow.
Scorers - Wicklow: Jonathan O'Neill Snr 1-06 (3f, 1 65), George O'Brien 2-01, Gerry Connors 0-03, James Cranley 0-02, Paul O'Brien 0-01, Luke Evans 0-01. Louth: Ronan Geoghegan 1-05 (5f), Niall Devlin 1-01, Michael Ryan 1-00, Gerard Smyth 0-01, Mark Molloy 0-01, Shane Maguire 0-01, John Martin 0-01, Paul Matthews 0-01.
Wicklow: Conor McNally; Darragh Maloney, Billy Cuddihy, John Connors; Shane Doyle, Peter Keane, Michael Connors; Jack Doyle, Jonathan O'Neill Senior; Luke Evans, Gerry Connors, Chris Kavanagh; Paul O'Brien, George O'Brien, James Cranley. Subs: Drew Brennan for C Kavanagh (H/T); Jonathan O'Neill Junior for D Maloney (50min, inj).
Louth: Stephen Hackett; Stephen Kettle, Ronan Byrne, Mike Lyons; Andrew McCrave, Shane Callan, Caoimhe Seery; Mark Molloy, Paul Matthews; Ronan Geoghegan, Niall Devlin, Gerard Smyth; Shane Maguire, John Martin, John Crosby. Subs: Michael Ryan for S Maguire (29min), Conor Deane for J Crosby (40min), Conor Matthews for S Callan (45min, inj), Liam Molloy for C Deane (55min, inj), Shane Callan for J Martin (64min).
Referee: Chris Dwyer (Offaly)