Louth’s promotion dream is ended by Dublin but Croke Park clash serves only to inspire optimism among Wee followers

Dublin 0-16 Louth 1-6

Peter Lynch of Louth in action against Con O'Callaghan of Dublin during the Allianz Football League Division 2 match between Dublin and Louth at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Caoimhín Reilly

Sentiment rarely holds any sway at Croke Park and for all of the commentary around Dublin’s demise – or, more accurately, their withdrawal towards humble membership of Sam Maguire’s pursuing pack – Louth’s promotion dream was rudely awakened at Jones’ Road on Sunday.

It remains to be seen just how significant this result is in the upward trajectory of Mickey Harte’s men. Arguably, the most important aspect was the margin as opposed to the outcome considering a Wee victory was never really on the cards. There was hope for hope inside the travelling support but no real conviction in any of the wildly bold claims that referred to a possible triumph.

One of the key scorelines in Harte’s tenure was the four-point loss in Cork last June as it allowed the Tyrone-native and his wily assistant, Gavin Devlin, to sell the prospect of further progress in the new year.

Likewise, a seven-point reverse to the Dubs last weekend will give the management plenty of scope to convince the players that it is possible to overthrow Dessie Farrell’s men at some stage. Suggestions along those lines will seem less outlandish in the corridors of Darver now considering the scoreboard differential was considerably less than the 26-point cavity that existed in 2019 and the 15 that separated the teams at Parnell Park 12 months ago.

It is all about marked improvements and as one-dimensional as the argument may be, Harte and co can allude to three missed goal chances as being a major factor in their downfall. Conall McKeever struck the post with a first half shot which would have restored the early lead which Louth held, while Dáire McConnon’s low effort was turned away by David O’Hanlon and then Conor Grimes’ powerful attempt whistled outside the upright.

To have had more of these type of opportunities than an attack which boasted multi-time All-Stars and certified All-Ireland champions – Ciarán Kilkenny, Con O’Callaghan et al – is a huge plus in regard to how well-disciplined Louth are defensively. They are really refined on that front.

They need to be more clinical when the chances arise, though, and just as their general play and economy has risen to new heights as the spring programme progressed, Louth will pose a sharper threat in the aftermath of another training block and can feel that their work continues to be vindicated.

For while the ultimate aim would have been to beat Dublin and go up, it was a moral victory and one that will generate priceless experience and belief.

"By and large, we’re happy with what the players did,” said Harte.

"They stuck to the plan and how we wanted to play the game. Obviously, in the middle of that, you make errors and decisions that aren’t just the best at a time, but you have to factor in as well that Dublin are good in an aggressive high press and maybe we’d got more time in our previous matches to be able to do things under less pressure.

“They put us under very extreme pressure on the ball and they’re good at that – they’ve been very good at that traditionally and it was a good experience for our players at this level. New experiences teach players things and we hope that it will have taught our players things that will be of value in our Leinster Championship match coming up.”


Scores are the only currency of value in Gaelic football and while both sides dipped below their average tally of notches from across the campaign, Louth fell further in this regard, dropping four short of their 13-point expectancy.

Generally, teams don’t tend to lose when posting a figure in the mid-teens and having restricted both Kildare and Cork to much less than that in rounds five and six, 0-12 and 0-10 respectively, the Reds’ inability to remain as stringent was never likely to blend well with a seven-score return at the other end.

Perhaps the absence of Sam Mulroy – and his free-taking prowess – was more keenly felt in that after Ryan Burns had miscued his early effort, Louth opted to take on short restarts from ranges where the Naomh Máirtín ace may have had a go.

Still, to have trailed by the minimum at the interval – 0-5 to four – having endured a head-in-hands moment when McKeever, who did superbly well to get into position, rattled the woodwork, was a positive place to be.

But the second half saw a number of players fail to sustain their levels of performance and Dublin began to pick off points from various sources. Five in a row bridged the gap to six, only for Liam Jackson to lay claim to a wonderful pass by his brother, Tom, and slide to the corner of the net 13 minutes after the break.

Their next registers weren’t until past the full-time mark – via Liam Jackson and Ciarán Downey (free) – and that was never going to be enough considering the weaponry which the Dubs were introducing from the sideline.

It took a fine intervention by Peter Lynch to turn away Paddy Small’s daisy-cutting drive at one stage. The Roche Emmets star, the youngest member of the Louth team, was outstanding on his Croke Park debut, as were James Califf, Tommy Durnin and the Jackson brothers.

"Peter had a good game and so had Ciarán Murphy, who is new to the scene,” added Harte.

"When Craig Lennon and Tom Jackson came in, they injected a lot of pace and excitement to the attack. Tommy Durnin, as usual, had a big game. Niall Sharkey put his heart and soul into it. Liam Jackson had a good game.

“There are different times where people gave that bit of X-factor that helped us to get into a decent place. Overall, the team performed well as a unit and of course we made some mistakes and the pressure the opposition put on us contributed to that, but, all in all, what we asked of the players was to give it their best shot and see where it took them.

"Now, it’s about going back to work again and trying to do things better that may get you a step closer to that level in days in the future.”

Here’s to that future, a bright one.

DUBLIN: David O’Hanlon; Dáire Newcombe 0-1, David Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons; John Small, Eoin Murchan, Lee Gannon; Brian Fenton 0-1, James McCarthy 0-1; Colm Basquel 0-3, Ciarán Kilkenny, Seán Buglar 0-2; Cormac Costello 0-2 (1f), Con O’Callaghan 0-1, Killian O’Gara 0-1. Subs: Paddy Small 0-1 for O’Gara (25), Tom Lahiff for Murchan (HT), Paul Mannion 0-1 for Basquel (53), Lorcan O’Dell 0-1 for Costello (61), Ross McGarry for Buglar (65), Dean Rock 0-1 (1 45) for O’Callaghan (70)

LOUTH: James Califf 0-1 (1f); Daniel Corcoran, Peter Lynch, Donal McKenny; Leonard Grey, Ciarán Murphy, Niall Sharkey; Tommy Durnin, Conor Early; Conall McKeever, Liam Jackson 1-1, Conor Grimes; Dáire McConnon 0-1, Ciarán Downey 0-3 (2f), Ryan Burns. Subs: Craig Lennon for McKenny (44), Tom Jackson for McKeever (44), Conal McCaul for Burns (53), Bevan Duffy for Sharkey (56), Jay Hughes for McConnon (56)

REFEREE: Paul Faloon (Down).