Sub Grimes seals Louth win as Smith shines
Louth 1-16 Leitrim 0-11
Leitrim had no answer to the wizardry of Paraic Smith as Louth recovered from their Leinster championship exit with an impressive victory over Leitrim.
So far this season the concession of goals has cost Louth dearly, but a tight defensive display from Colin Kelly's side and Conor Grimes' goal less than a minute after his introduction sealed the win for Louth.
As the conditions deteriorated in the second-half the quality of football on display did too, but the home side will not worry after an impressive victory. The scores came easier to Louth who will be thrilled by just their second qualifier win in eight years.
For Leitrim it brings an end to a disappointing season. Another year in division four faces them next season, but a 15th qualifier defeat from 16 back door games is a stark statistic. After an eight point defeat to Galway in Connacht there were hopes of adding to the win column in Drogheda last night, but it's back to the drawing board for Shane Ward and his troops.
The home side got off to a great start when midfielder James Califf kicked a long range free off the ground in the second minute, but Louth showed their patience in the fifth minute when Bevan Duffy made it 0-2 to 0-0.
Throughout the first-half Louth impressed with their build-up play as they worked an opening more often than not after patient play, and after Kevin Conlon got Leitrim off the mark Louth restored a two point cushion when Ronan Holdcroft landed a great score from the left.
A black card to corner-back Padraig Rath was a big setback to Louth in the ninth minute following a third-man tackle on Gary Reynolds, and it only took Fergal Clancy two minutes to pull Leitrim level after that with a couple of quick points.
Louth centre-forward Smith was proving a hard man to pin down for the Leitrim rearguard and he put his side ahead when he carved out a yard of space in the 15th minute.
Alongside him Duffy impressed too, and Holdcroft kicked his second score after 16 minutes when Duffy fielded a Cathal McCrann kick-out. Ryan Burns made it three points in two minutes for Louth to leave it 0-6 to 0-3, but a couple of scores from Clancy at the other end kept Leitrim in touch.
As half-time beckoned, Holdcroft kicked the point of the half off the outside of his boot, but with the last kick before the interval, Conlon made it 0-11 to 0-8, which kept Leitrim in touch.
The sides swapped points early on in the second-half, before Smith landed a great score for the home side to make it 0-13 to 0-9.
But the result was put beyond doubt in the 48th minute when Grimes powered past the cover and finished smartly with the outside of the boot.
Grimes pointed on the turn soon after before Conlan weighed in with a free for Leitrim, but they easily held on for the win.
Scorers - Louth: R Holdcroft 0-4 (1f), C Grimes 1-1, P Smith 0-3, J Califf 0-3 (3f), R Burns 0-2 (1f), D Byrne, B Duffy, C Judge, D Maguire 0-1 each; Leitrim: K Conlan 0-5 (3f), F Clancy 0-4, D Beck, A McLoughlin 0-1 each
Louth: C Lynch; P Rath, D Finnegan, A Williams; D Byrne, D O'Hanlon, A Reid; T Durnin, J Califf; B Duffy, P Smith, C McKeever; R Burns, C Judge, R Holdcroft. Subs: E Lafferty for Rath (10 BC), D Maguire for McKeever (40), C Grimes for Burns (47), G McSorley for Smith (58), R Moore for Duffy (63), P Kirwan for Holdcroft (68).
Leitrim: C McCrann; M Murphy, R Gallagher, N Woods; S McWeeney, G Reynolds, S Quinn; D Sweeney, S Moran; D Beck, P McGowan, K Conlan; F Clancy, D Wrynn, A McLoughlin. Subs: J McGrail for Moran (21), R Kennedy for McGowan (44), C Farrell for Beck (51), M Plunkett for Wrynn (58).
Referee: C Brannigan (Down).
Sunday Indo Sport