Tuesday 24 April 2018

Second Wee setback fails to deflate Fitzpatrick

Limerick 1-14
Louth 1-11
Allianz Football League Div 3

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

A WEEK may be a long time in politics but, as Peter Fitzpatrick discovered last summer, and is finding out in the relative backwaters of this division right now, it can be equally eventful in football.

After starting with a three-game unbeaten run, the newly elected TD and Louth football manager yesterdfay saw his side suffer their second consecutive defeat to suddenly leave a serious question mark hanging over their promotion hopes.

To lose their last home game to Limerick, who were without midfield star John Galvin -- away playing for St Mary's Castleisland in basketball's Division 1 play-offs -- while kicking 11 of their 15 wides by half-time, will certainly dent Louth's confidence.

But, in these recessionary times, you don't go into politics without being a supreme optimist, and Fitzpatrick was his usual upbeat self afterwards.

"We're disappointed with two defeats in a row but we will bounce back," Fitzpatrick said.

"Tipperary beat Offaly so we're still in second place. We've Cavan and Waterford away now and if we can win our last two games we have a great chance of going up and that's how we'll be looking at it. You don't become a bad team overnight."

After trailing by just a point (1-4 to 0-9) at half-time, the Wee County were level three times before being hit by a sucker punch of a goal after 55 minutes. A rocket of a shot on the run from Limerick super-sub Eoghan O'Connor hit the woodwork and fell fortuitously to Pa Ranahan.


The wing-back tucked the lucky break away as effectively as the left hook that first floored Willie 'Big Bang' Casey on Saturday night and the home crowd was similarly shocked into silence.

Within minutes O'Connor, not started because he had a dead leg and lines out for the U-21s on Wednesday, struck again, putting Limerick three clear as the game swung dramatically their way.

Shane Lennon got a quick reply and Louth 'keeper Sean Connor pulled off a great save to give them every hope of a comeback but then, they fatally shot three wides in a row.

Man of the match Seanie Buckley also made a superb block on Adrian Reid which proved vital. It earned Louth a '45' which Brian Donnelly slotted, but Reid's run had looked altogether more dangerous and their momentum was stalled.

Scores from relative newcomer Tom Lee and O'Connor quickly extended Limerick's lead beyond doubt, to the delight of manager Maurice Horan, who has seen them win their last two games to drag themselves off the bottom of the table.

"The goal came at a crucial stage for us and we're in with a fighting chance to stay up," said Horan.

"Our backs were against the wall so to come up here and get a win is great."

Horan deserves kudos himself for getting his tactics right. Apart from Derek Maguire and JP Rooney, none of the Louth forwards impressed and the switch of experienced Johnny McCarthy onto Rooney significantly shackled his influence.

Horan also flooded the defence once Limerick got ahead, and help from the likes of Buckley, who got through a mountain of work, was key to their victory.

Up front the ageless Stephen Kelly was Louth's first-half nemesis, having too much pace for Aaron Hoey and Fitzpatrick's son Stephen in turn.

John Cooke, who played largely at wing-forward, also won a mountain of ball on top of his 0-3 from play, even when their short kickouts were less than perfect.

Louth, who didn't open their scoring until the 24th minute, certainly couldn't catch a break.

Just two minutes in Mark Brennan got off a great long-range shot that forced a diving save from Brian Scanlon and, after 15 minutes, when Lennon pounced on a mis-hit kick-out and fed Rooney, his screamer ricocheted back off the crossbar.

Brennan and Derek Maguire combined well to feed Lennon for a goal that eventually opened their scoring and, after trailing by five, they were level on the half-hour, with All Star midfielder Paddy Keenan and Donnelly leading the charge.

But worries remained about their defence's tendency to let Limerick run at them and Fitzpatrick also wasn't happy with their tendency to go chasing goals too early, which he said was also a feature of their loss to Offaly.

Man of the Match: S Buckley (Limerick)

Scorers -- Limerick: P Ranahan 1-0, S Kelly, J Cooke 0-3 each, G Collins (1f), E O'Connor 0-2 each, J Riordan, T Lee, S Buckley, J Mullane 0-1 each. Louth: S Lennon 1-3 (1f), JP Rooney 0-3, P Keenan, D Maguire 0-2 each, B Donnelly 0-1 (1 '45).

Limerick -- B Scanlon 7; M Riordan 6, S Gallagher 6, M Sheehan 5; J Riordan 7, J McCarthy 8, P Ranahan 7; T Lee 7, S Buckley 8; S Kelly 8, J Mullane 6, E Hogan 7; I Ryan 5, J Cooke 8, G Collins 6. Subs: J Hoare 6 for Sheehan (h-t), E O'Connor 8 for Mullane (53), S O'Carroll 7 for Hogan (60), J Kelly for O'Carroll (73).

Louth -- S Connor 8; D Byrne 7, A Hoey 7, G Hoey 8; D Crilly 6, D Finnegan 6 , S Fitzpatrick 5; P Keenan 7, B Donnelly 7; A Reid 5, A McDonnell 5, M Brennan 6; D Maguire 7, S Lennon 7, JP Rooney 7. Subs: P Smith 7 for Brennan (45), J Carr 6 for Finnegan (57), R Carroll 6 for McDonnell (57), C Judge for Maguire (67).

Ref -- B Cassidy (Derry).

Irish Independent

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