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Louth hold on to progress to Leinster final

LOUTH will contest a Leinster U21 FC final for the first time since 1996 after edging out a much-fancied Offaly team by 0-10 to 0-8 in Páirc Tailteann last night.

Offaly, who had previously ousted both Kildare and Meath, were hotly-tipped to advance but despite scoring just once in the final 23 minutes of proceedings, the Wee County were well worth their win.

They took control of the match early on and led by 0-4 to 0-1, a third of the way through the half, with both William Woods an Peter Kerwin to the fore on the scoreboard.

They were helped, however, by the uncharacteristically errant Anton Sullivan. The Rhode hotshot missed two eminently scorable frees in the first half and by the time the whistle went, Louth were well in control at 0-6 to 0-1.

And it got better for Colin Kelly's team.

Three minutes into the second period, his team led by eight and with Shane O'Hanlon lording the exchanges at midfield and eight different players registering on the scoreboard, victory, it seemed, would be more easily captured than had been predicted.

Typically though, Offaly rallied and the introduction of substitute, Peter Cunningham, added a new dimension to their attack.

Cunningham, who is on this year's minor team also, scored 0-5, including three frees after relieving Sullivan of place-kicking duty as the Faithful's late comeback gathered momentum.

However, Offaly would pay the price for more squanderlust in front of the posts in the face of some zealous Louth defending and even though Ruairí Moore was sent off late on for a second yellow card, Louth hung on to book their date with Dublin in the Leinster final on Wednesday, April 4.

The Wee County won the last of their provincial U21 titles in 1981 (1970, 1978 - being other two occasions).

SCORERS - Louth: W Woods, B Rogan (1f) 0-2 each, E O'Connor, S O'Hanlon, R Moore (1f), P Kirwan, B Hamilton, B Berrill 0-1 each. Offaly: P Cunningham 0-5 (3f), D Hogan, A Sullivan, A McDonagh 0-1 each.

LOUTH: J Flanagan; C Murray, D Campbell, T Hand; M McKeown, P Reilly, A Williams; E O'Connor, S O'Hanlon; R Moore, C Bellew, P Kirwan; B Rogan, W Woods, B Hamilton. Subs: E Duffy for McKeown (35), B Rerrill for Hamilton (51), E O'Neill for Kirwan (55).

OFFALY: G Shiels; C Donoghue, E Rigney, J Kavanagh; S Hannon, J Ledwith, J McFadden; M Brazil, D Kelly; D Hogan, A Sullivan, G Guilfoyle; T Spain, B Allen, S Cullen. Subs: M Young for Cullen (25), P Cunningham for Spain (26), N Bracken for Kavanagh, D Hanlon for Donoghue (both 33), A McDonagh for Hannon (53).

REF: F Barry (Kildare).