Tuesday 23 January 2018

O'Gara crushes hope of Louth retribution

DUBLIN 2-14 LOUTH 0-13


RETRIBUTION and rejuvenation were key words in the Louth camp in the lead up to this fourth-round All-Ireland qualifier, but there was no renaissance at Croke Park yesterday afternoon.

They were simply overwhelmed by an increasingly impressive Dublin in a contest that was well over by the break. We wondered what frame of mind Louth would be in after the Delaney Cup was stolen from their clutches two weeks back. Would they be set fair for a heroic comeback or was their season over?

Sadly, when the Dublin midfielders beat them to the first seven balls we knew it would be the latter.

And for once, the Dubs didn't have to lean almost entirely on Bernard Brogan, who only managed one point from play. Yesterday, it was full-forward Eoghan O'Gara who stepped up and hit two-first half goals to leave them ahead by nine points at half-time, 2-6 to 0-3.

A powerful attacker, O'Gara still needs more poise and composure but he still got the killer scores. It was the non-stop graft of Ross McConnell, Michael Darragh Macauley and Bryan Cullen that gave him a platform. Their endeavour slowly killed off Peter Fitzpatrick's men.

Before the game, the ever-animated Fitzpatrick challenged his players to deliver one more act of defiance. But they were buried before they even started. Clearly, on this display, an army of sports psychologists wouldn't have lifted them from the Meath disaster.

In stark contrast, Dublin are improving with every game. Wins over Tipperary, Armagh and now Louth, have steeled them. In the 15th minute Niall Corkery was beaten for a ball and was thrown over the end line. He came back like a terrier, dispossessed John O'Brien and won a free in front of the posts. That's the work-rate Pat Gilroy has been demanding. And that's what he's getting now.

As for Louth? They may well look back in 20 years and lament the summer of 2010. The heart-wrenching loss to Meath will play on their minds for the rest of their lives unless they can come back stronger next season, although it's unlikely that they'll get such a favourable draw again.

For once, their towering midfielders, Paddy Keenan and Brian White, were outplayed yesterday, with White replaced after the break. But, typically, Keenan gathered his calm and ended the game in tigerish form, scoring 0-2. Elsewhere, shooters like Colin Judge didn't get a sniff of the ball. While John O'Brien curtailed Brogan brilliantly, their only other decent performers were Mark Brennan.

The Dubs opened with a goal-scoring chance through Niall Corkery but they didn't have long to wait to raise a green flag. A deflected O'Gara shot in the 15th minute was later followed by another well-earned goal from the same player. Points from the same man, Alan Brogan, Cullen and two '45s' from Cluxton left them nine ahead at the break. Louth had nothing to offer; they hit five wides and only three Brian White frees saved their blushes.

Upon the restart they made a better stab, kicking 10 points in the next 35 minutes. Darren Clarke (0-2), Shane Lennon, Declan Byrne and Andy McDonnell were among those who pointed as they emptied their bench. But it was all too late. They got a rousing standing ovation from their supporters at the end, a deserved gesture for a team that lit up this year's championship.

But the Dubs march on. And the swagger is returning with every outing.

Scorers -- Dublin: E O'Gara 2-1, BCullen, B Brogan (0-2f) 0-3 each, S Cluxton (0-2, '45) 0-2, A Brogan, G Brennan, R McConnell, P Flynn, T Quinn (0-1f) 0-1 each; Louth: L B White (0-3f), D Clarke (0-2f) 0-3 each, D Byrne, P Keenan 0-2 each, A McDonnell, S Lennon, D Maguire 0-1 each

Dublin: S Cluxton, M Fitzsimons, R O'Carroll, P McMahon, K Nolan, G Brennan, B Cahill, MD McAuley, R McConnell, B Cullen, A Brogan, N Corkery, D Henry, E O'Gara, B Brogan. Subs: N Corkery for P Flynn (41), C Keaney for D Henry (42), E Fennell for R McConnell (50), D Magee for MD McAuley (54), T Quinn for A Brogan (59)

Louth: N Gallagher, E McAuley, D Finnegan, J O'Brien, R Finnegan, M Fanning, S Fitzpatrick, P Keenan, B White, A McDonnell, M Brennan, A Reid, C Judge, S Lennon, JP Rooney. Subs: D Clarke for C Judge (34), D Byrne for R Finnegan (34), R Carroll for B White (47), D Maguire for JP Rooney (59), Derek Crilly for S Fitzpatrick (62)

Referee: P McEnaney (Monaghan)

Sunday Independent

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