Louth hold off Antrim fightback
Louth saw off Antrim by six points in Drogheda yesterday but the victory was nowhere near as comfortable as the scoreline might suggest.
Aidan O'Rourke's hosts looked like they were on the way to a comfortable victory when they led by six points in the first half and seven in the second, only for the Ulstermen to battle their way back into contention each time.
In the end, a strong finish ensured that the Wee County advanced to the next round of the qualifiers but they will know that there are plenty of improvements to be made before their next outing.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead on 15 minutes after Ciaran Byrne squeezed a shot under Chris Kerr, having collected a Derek Maguire pass at the edge of the square.
Antrim responded well to the setback, however, with Paddy Cunningham hitting three successive points. Indeed, they could have been level on 19 minutes only for a fine save from Neil Gallagher, who turned a Sean Kelly shot around the post.
However, a stoppage-time free from Shane Lennon gave the Wee County a 1-7 to 0-6 lead at the break.
Louth quickly built on that advantage on the restart as they scored five of the next six points to lead by 1-11 to 0-7 after 48 minutes.
Frank Dawson's side refused to throw in the towel, though, and when Michael Pollock's goal a minute later was followed up with two further points from Cunningham, suddenly the deficit was back to three.
Louth finished the stronger of the two sides, however, with Lennon adding to his advantage in a late rally from the home side. The one downside was a late red card for goalkeeper Gallagher after he verbally abused an umpire but it mattered little as the Wee County marched on to the next round.
Scorers – Louth: C Byrne 1-2, S Lennon 0-5 (f), B White (f), R Carroll, C Rafferty 0-2 each, R Finnegan, D Maguire, C Judge, P Keenan 0-1 each. Antrim: P Cunningham 0-6 (4f), M Pollock 1-1, M Herron, B Herron, C Murray, K Boyle 0-1 each.
Louth: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, J Bingham; C McGuinness, D Crilly, A Reid; P Keenan, B Donnelly; C Rafferty, B White, C Judge; D Maguire, S Lennon, C Byrne. Subs: R Finnegan for C McGuinness (16); R Carroll for B Donnelly (30), D Clarke for C Byrne (50), P Smith for C Rafferty (67), J Flanagan for N Gallagher (69).
Antrim: C Kerr; K O'Boyle, P Doherty, R Johnson; A Healey, S Kelly, J Carron; S McVeigh, J Crozier; C Murray, M Sweeney, M Herron; M Pollock, B Herron, P Cunningham. Subs: P McBride for A Healey (53), R Murray for S McVeigh (58), D McAleese for M Herron (62); N Delargy for B Herron (66).
Referee: C Branagan (Down)