Superb victory for the Yeats men
Louth 1-19 Sligo 2-24
Sligo hurlers got their 2019 Nicky Rackard Cup Group 2 campaign off to the perfect start with a win against Louth last Saturday. A second-half penalty slotted away by the prolific Keith Raymond spurred Sligo on in an impressive win at a sun-soaked Dowdallshill.
Sligo played against a slight breeze in the first half but opened the scoring in the first minute with a terrific solo effort from Tony O'Kelly-Lynch, popping over from 45 yards out after weaving his way through the middle of the Louth defence. Louth quickly responded through their energetic midfielder, David Kettle, opening up their account for the afternoon.
It was a blistering opening few minutes with both sides registering scores through Cork native, Shane Crowley, the energetic Kevin O'Kennedy and Keith Raymond getting on the scoresheet for Sligo.
Louth answered Sligo's challenge with centre back, Gerard McKeown, hitting a beauty of a point from long range and sharpshooter, Darren Geoghgan, who would go onto to finish with a personal tally of 0-12, tapping over a free.
Louth seemed to be struggling with Sligo's pace around the midfield and up front, with the two-man full-forward line of Raymond and Kennedy exploiting the space open to them, creating two goal chances only for goalkeeper Louth keeper, Donal Connolly, to come to the rescue.
But Sligo raised the green flag after 8 minutes when a long ball from the influential Rory McHugh from midfield was plucked magically out of the sky from Kevin Banks, who then hand passed to the free Raymond who turned and finished neatly from close range to put Sligo 1-4 to 0-03 ahead.
Louth responded well from the concession of the goal with David Kettle slotting over another point straight from the puck-out, who was impressive in the first half registering a total of 0-03.
It was a tit for tat mid-way through the 1st half, with Crowley and Kevin Banks registering points for the Yeats men which were cancelled out by a terrific score from Louth wing back, Jamie McDonnell and Geoghgan, who slotted over another free.
Louth found the back of the Sligo net in the 19th minute when a high ball launched towards the Sligo goal was flicked beautifully into the net by full-forward Seaghan Connelly with Sligo keeper Mark Burke caught off his line, making it 1-07 to 1-08 in Sligo's favour.
Sligo themselves responded well after Connelly's goal by hitting four points on the trot through Gary Cadden, Kennedy, Raymond and a terrific score from Crowley after team captain, James Weir, fielded a high ball around the middle and delivered a pass into the Cork man who pointed from near the right -hand sideline.
However, that would be Sligo's last score of the half and Louth experienced a purple patch themselves hitting 5 points without reply. They could have had another goal when Seaghan Connelly found himself on the edge of the square only for his rasper of a shot to come off the crossbar.
Louth's late rally in the first half left the teams all square at half time at 1-13 apiece.
It was Sligo who got off the mark first after the break with Sligo dual-player Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch slotting over a 65' after Crowley found himself in space only for his groundstroke to be blocked by Louth keeper, Donnelly.
Darren Geoghgan landed a point from a free and another from play in the space of a minute to put Louth ahead for the first time in the game on the 37th minute.
But Louth's lead was short-lived, with Gary Cadden hitting one of three inspirational scores from long distance in the second half.
Sligo drove one and a crucial moment in the game came in the 48th minute when Raymond's sideline cut was brilliantly fetched by Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch on the edge of the square who was then dragged down by two Louth defenders in the box leaving referee, James McGrath, with no option but to signal a penalty. Raymond stepped up and blasted high into the roof of the net leaving Donal Connolly no chance, putting Sligo 2-17 to 1-15 in front with 20 minutes to go.
Sligo rang the changes and Calry/St. Joseph's Conor Griffin, who replaced the injured Liam Reidy, made the perfect introduction by firing over a point from midfield seconds after coming on.
Louth continued to try and peg back the deficit but Sligo defenders, particularly in full back Niall Feehily, substitute Mikey Gordon, and Ronan Cox forbidding Louth on making any significant breakthrough.
Sligo keeper, Mark Burke, was called into action to deny Louth's David Stephenson and again saving at his near post minutes later, with Geoghgan scoring the subsequent 65', who was the only Louth player to get on the scoresheet for the Wee County in the 2nd half.
That's as good as it got for Louth while Sligo took their chances with points from the pacey Tony O'Kelly-Lynch, substitute Andrew Kilcullen, a brace from Raymond and Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch sealing the deal in injury time from a free meaning Sligo came away from Louth with a convincing 2-24 to 1-19 victory.
Next up for Dathí Hand's men is a home tie against Tyrone this Saturday at 13:00 in Kent Park while Louth go west to Mayo in Round 2 of the Rackard cup.
Louth scorers: Darren Geoghgan; 0-12 (0-7f, 0-2 65'), Seaghan Connelly; 1-0, David Kettle; 0-03, Gerard McKeown, Jamie McDonnell, Feidhlim Joyce, James Costelloe; 0-01 each.
Sligo scorers: Keith Raymond; 2-5 (1-0 pen.), Gary Cadden, Shane Crowley; 0-04 each, Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch; 0-03 (0-2f, 0-1 65"), Tony O'Kelly-Lynch, Kevin O'Kennedy, Kevin Banks; 0-02 each, Conor Griffen, Andrew Kilcullen; 0-01 each
LOUTH: Donal Connolly, Andrew Smith, Andrew McGrave, Stephen Hoey, Stephen Kettle, Gerard McKeown, Jame McDonnell, David Kettle, Gerard Smyth, Feidhlim Joyce, James Costelloe, Padraig Fallon, Darren Geoghgan, Seaghan Connelly, Conor Deane. Subs used: Mark Wallace for Gerard Smyth (15), David Stephenson for David Kettle (44).
SLIGO: Mark Burke, James Weir, Niall Feehily, Niall MacDermott, Kevin Banks, Ronan Cox, Liam Reidy, Rory McHugh, Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch, Joe Starr, Tony O'Kelly-Lynch, Shane Crowley, Gary Cadden, Keith Raymond, Kevin O'Kennedy. Subs used: Kevin Gilmartin for Shane Crowley (38), Mikey Gordon for Niall Mac Dermott (40), Andrew Kilcullen for Kevin O'Kennedy (50), Conor Griffin for Liam Reidy (58), Brian Shannon for Gary Cadden (67).
REFEREE: Thomas Walsh (Waterford).