WICKLOW'S glorious 2009 championship campaign seemed a dim and distant memory as Mick O'Dwyer's troops found themselves on the receiving end of a 13-point hammering by Louth in this O'Byrne Cup tie at Baltinglass yesterday.
Admittedly, the Garden County were missing eight regulars from last year's championship line-up, but still the failure of the replacements to make a reasonable impact must have been of major concern to the home fans.
But if O'Dwyer was harbouring any concerns, he wasn't publicly displaying them afterwards. "It's only the first competitive match of the year, and we were more intent on trying out new lads than anything else," he said.
Similarly, new Louth boss Peter Fitzpatrick was not getting carried away by his side's emphatic victory. "It was nice to get the win, but our main focus is on our first league game against Wexford on February 7," he said.
Former midfielder Brian White, playing at left corner-forward, and JP Rooney supplied the Louth goals on 17 and 30 minutes respectively. But Rooney was immediately forced to retire after colliding with the post in punching the ball to the net.
The game was virtually over as a contest when the O'Byrne Cup holders, who meet AIT next Sunday, led 2-9 to 0-4 at half-time.
And the Wee County would have shot two more goals but for a fine save by Wicklow goalkeeper Billy Norman from Derek Crilly just before half-time, and midfielder Paddy Keenan hitting the post midway through the second half.
Wicklow's cup of woe was complete when Dean Odlum shot tamely wide from 51st minute penalty awarded when Seanie Furlong was fouled.
SCORERS -- Louth: B White 1-6 (0-6 f), JP Rooney 1-2, C Judge 0-3, D Crilly, P Keenan 0-2 each, A McDonnell, S Fitzpatrick, R Finnegan 0-1 each. Wicklow: C Jones 0-4 (0-3f), S Furlong 0-3 (0-2f), P Earls, D Odlum, N Gaffney, T Hannon ('45') 0-1 each.
LOUTH -- N Gallagher; D Byrne, D Finnegan, R Greene; R Finnegan, A Hoey, J O'Brien; P Keenan, S O'Neill; D Crilly, A McDonnell, D Maguire; C Judge, JP Rooney, B White. Subs: A Reid for Rooney (31), S Fitzpatrick for O'Brien (41), M Fanning for D Finnegan (53), L Shevlin for Maguire (57).
WICKLOW -- B Norman; C Hyland, S Kelly, P Hogan; P McWalter, S Canavan, D Hayden; B Lennon, R Murphy; P Earls, T Hannon, E Kearns; D Odlum, S Furlong. C Jones. Subs: N Gaffney for Murphy (30), M English for Hannon (43), S Murley for Kearns (55).
Ref -- B Hickey (Kildare).