Grimes goal sinks Saffrons
Louth 3-12 Antrim 1-14
A big day at Croke Park for the Wee County ended in a dramatic win with a late, late Conor Grimes goal. A compelling contest looked to be heading into extra-time when substitute Ruairi Moore slipped a pass to the big full-forward, and he buried it past Chris Kerr from close range to stun the Saffrons.
Jim McEneaney led the way with a storming display and a terrific second-half goal that breathed spectacular life into his side's challenge when they needed it most.
The Leinster men reverted to a 'route one' strategy when the game appeared to be slipping away from them, but it was their energy which swung the game in their favour at a crucial stage.
Louth struck for a goal in the fifth minute. Full-forward Grimes used his power, physique and strength to hold off a couple of defenders and timed his pass perfectly, sending flying wing-back Derek Maguire in to smash his shot past Kerr.
Saffron confidence was not dented by this setback, however, and they soon regained the lead through Conor Murray, but the Leinster men were growing in confidence and picking up plenty of breaking ball around the middle.
Antrim's defensive approach invited their opponents to push forward and Declan Byrne and Jim McEneaney, from a sideline ball, both hit the target to edge them in front for the first time.
The Ulster men went 13 minutes without a score, before Tomas McCann began to find the range with free-kicks.
And in the 31st minute, Matthew Fitzpatrick drilled home a fine goal to steer them towards a 1-9 to 1-5 interval lead.
Louth went back to basics, switching to a more direct approach.
James Califf converted a couple of frees, and Byrne landed his third following a goalmouth scramble.
Going into the final 15 minutes just two points separated the sides and Louth were very much on top, with Califf a valuable source of primary possession around the middle.
Antrim had lost their spark. Louth sensed the opportunity, and McEneaney flew through to finish off a delightful move with a stunning finish to the bottom corner for a two-point lead.
That strike sparked Antrim back into life, and Conor Murray brought them level. Burns and McCann swapped frees but, in stoppage time, Ruairi Moore fed Grimes for the killer goal.
Scorers - Louth: D Maguire 1-2; J McEneaney 1-1; R Burns 0-4 (3f); C Grimes 1-0; D Byrne 0-3; J Califf 0-2 (2f); Antrim: T McCann 0-8 (6f); M Fitzpatrick 1-1; C Murray 0-2; R Johnson, B Neeson (f), P McBride 0-1 each
Louth: C Lynch; P Rath, P Reilly, K Toner; D Maguire, D McMahon, E Lafferty; J Stewart, J Califf; D Byrne, J McEneaney, T Durnin; C McKeever, C Grimes, R Burns. Subs: J Bingham for Toner (12) A Williams for Bingham (BC, 35), R Moore for McMahon (43), G McSorley for Burns (74)
Antrim: C Kerr; N Delargey, C Burke, R Johnson; K O'Boyle, M Johnson, J Laverty; N McKeever, J Carron; M Fitzpatrick, K Niblock, C Murray; B Neeson, M McCann, T McCann. Subs: R Murray for Neeson (47), P McBride for Carron (52), D McAleese for Fitzpatrick (57), M Sweeney for Laverty (62), J Crozier for Burke (66)
Referee: J Henry (Mayo)
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