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)
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.