Evergreen O'Neill strikes a blow for 40-somethings
Wicklow 3-14 Louth 3-11
Wicklow, last year's beaten finalists, got their 2018 campaign off to a good start with a hard-fought victory over Louth in Darver.
Veteran Jonathan O'Neill Snr showed he still has an important role to play in this Wicklow team, with the 43-year-old contributing 1-6 in an excellent display.
O'Neill was ably assisted by George O'Brien, who terrorised the Louth defence in the first half, scoring 2-1 to help his side go in at the break 2-7 to 1-6 in front.
Ronan Geoghegan kept Louth in it with a goal late in the half after a frantic goalmouth scramble. Louth got to within a point with half an hour to go thanks to a well-struck goal from Niall Devlin but that was a close as they got as Wicklow pulled away once more thanks to a quickfire 1-2 from O'Neill.
Michael Ryan scored Louth's third goal late on to leave a goal in it but despite finishing the game with 14 men Wicklow hung on for a deserved win.
Meanwhile, Longford's second-round tie with DCU-St Patrick's Campus at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park was postponed because of a frozen pitch.
Officials made an attempt to play clash at an alternative venue, Michael Fay Park, but that surface was also frozen.
scorers - Wicklow: J O'Neill Snr 1-6 (0-4fs, 0-1 '65'); G O'Brien 2-1; G Connors 0-3; J Cranley 0-2; P O'Brien, L Evans 0-1 each. Louth: R Geoghegan 1-5 (0-4fs); N Devlin 1-1; M Ryan 1-0; G Smyth 0-2; M Molloy, P Matthews, S Maguire 0-1 each.
WICKLOW - C McNally, D Moloney, B Cuddihy, J Connors, S Doyle, P Keane, M Connors, J Doyle, P O'Brien, L Evans, G Connors, C Kavanagh, J Cranley, G O'Brien, J O'Neill Snr. Subs: J O'Neill Jnr for D Moloney
LOUTH - S Hackett, S Kettle, R Byrne, M Lyons, A McCrave, S Callan, C Seery, M Molloy, P Matthews, R Geoghegan, N Devlin, G Smyth, S Maguire, J Martin, J Crosby. Subs: M Ryan for S Maguire, C Matthews for S Callan, C Deane for J Crosby, L Molloy for C Deane, S Callan for J Martin.
REF - C Dwyer (Offaly)