Wee men produce big time as Kierans gears up for Dublin date
Louth 0-22 Wexford 1-14
They left it late, but in the end the Wee men came up big.
Eight unanswered points from the 61st minute to the final whistle saw Louth home. For the previous hour or so Wexford had been at least a match for the visitors in near-perfect conditions in Innovate Wexford Park, but in the end the impact of the Louth bench - most notably Ryan Burns - won the day.
In a 15-minute cameo, he kicked four points and set up a date with Dublin.
They needed his intervention, as midway through the second-half Wexford looked to have struck a killer blow. The sides were tied at 0-11 each - the seventh time they had been level in the match - when the industrious Eoghan Nolan was felled in the box. The experienced Kevin O'Grady rammed home the penalty to put Paul McLoughlin's side three points clear - the largest margin of the game.
And when Jonathan Bealin - son of former Dublin footballer Paul steered over his seventh point of the day to restore that three-point cushion, Wexford football looked set for a restorative win.
Louth launched a late assault, but it wasn't without its controversy. With two between the sides McLoughlin felt sub John Tubritt was fouled in front of the Louth goal.
Referee Derek O'Mahoney waved played on and within seconds the gap was cut to the minimum.
"If anyone is telling me that watches that video that that wasn't a foul on John Tubritt 14 yards out to put us three points up with five to go…" said McLoughlin.
"Instead the play is waved on, the ball goes the other end of the pitch and the ball is kicked over the bar.
"Suddenly there is a point in it and in a game the emotional and physical and psychological is at such an edge those little margins are huge and the decisions have to be right.
"I'm not making excuses, it is a huge moment in the game. A 14-yard free? Jonathan Bealin is not going to miss that, but in fairness to Louth they finished better. They had a lot of lads who could kick the ball over the bar, lots of finishers and they saw it out."
Louth might have felt they were on the wrong side of a call early in the first-half when Andy McDonnell had the ball in the net.
This time the official blew for a penalty just as the ball dribbled over the line. Conor Carty saw black, but the Wee men would surely have preferred the advantage, a point that was underlined when Jim McEneaney's effort was saved by Matt Doyle.
Doyle would make two more excellent saves, while Fergal Sheeky also produced a smart stop from Barry O'Connor.
Wexford led by a point at the break (0-7 to 0-6), but Louth kicked two points inside the first 60 seconds of the restart to retake the lead. O'Grady's penalty put Wexford in control before Louth came good at the death.
"That's what the panel is there for, we knew we had the firepower," Louth boss Wayne Kierans said of his side's comeback.
"There's not too many teams in Division 3 and even some Division 2 teams that wouldn't have Ryan Burns in their starting 15 so that bodes well for the future that the panel is strong.
"Eoghan Duffy, Conor Early, William (Woods), too, all made great contributions. That's what we want and we always like to empty the bench regardless of how the game is going and we certainly needed them today."
Louth won the right to face Dublin, a dubious prize in the eyes of some, but Kierans doesn't see any negatives to the fixture.
"I don't see a downside. You could look at it that way, but there's no point in thinking negative 'oh we are going to get a hammering here'.
"I guarantee you no matter what way that game goes we are going to learn something. Our young lads will learn, the older lads will learn.
"I'm an inexperienced manager so I'm going to learn, so I don't see any negativity about it at all. Obviously it will be a very tough game, they are the best of the best, but talk of tiers and Championships and that can be had after. It's not binary for us - if we win it's fantastic and if we lose it's terrible - we just want to measure ourselves and see where we are and make sure we learn from it."
SCORERS - Louth: J Califf 0-5 (2f), R Burns 0-4 (1 '45), D Byrne, S Mulroy (3f) 0-3 each, A McDonnell 0-2, W Woods, T Durnin, J McEneaney, C McKeever C Downey 0-1 each
Wexford: J Bealin 0-7 (4f), B Brosnan 0-3, K O'Grady 1-0 (pen), G Malone 0-2, M O'Connor, C Devitt 0-1 each.
Louth - F Sheeky 7; F Donohoe 6, E Carolan 6, J Craven 6; A Williams 7, B Duffy 7, J Clutterbuck 6; T Durnin 7, J Califf 8; C Downey 6, J McEneaney 6, C McKeever 7; A McDonnell 8, S Mulroy 6, D Byrne 7. Subs: D Corcoran for Williams (BS 4-7), C Early 7 for Califf (50), E Duffy 7 for Clutterbuck, R Burns 8 for Mulroy (both 56), R Holcroft for McEneaney (61), D Corcoran for Donohoe (63), W Woods for Byrne (67).
Wexford - M Doyle 8; M Furlong 6, M O'Connor 7, C Carty 5; G Malone 6, B Malone 7, E Porter 6; D Waters 7, N Hughes 6; E Nolan 7, B O'Connor 6, C Devitt 6; K O'Grady 7, B Brosnan 7, J Bealin 7. Subs: G Sheehan 6 for Carthy (BC 9), T Rossiter 6 for Hughes (40), R Frayne for Nolan (63), J Tubritt for Devitt (67), J Cash for Porter (68), D Shannon for Waters (BC 72).
Ref - D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)