Hard-hitting Kildare pick off Louth at will

Early salvo from Lilywhites sets the tone for one-sided stroll into semi-final

Louth’s Conor Grimes and Fergal Conway of Kildare. Photograph: Inpho

Louth’s Conor Grimes and Fergal Conway of Kildare. Photograph: Inpho



What happened to Louth yesterday is regularly the fate of a pugilist not meant long for his sport.

Stunned by an early salvo of jabs and hooks from a superior opponent, they abandon fundamentals and refuse to let their hands go for fear of stinging counter-punches.

Worst of all they stop working, start to cling on and brutal punishment nearly always follows.

“Croke Park, when the game is going away from you, is a very lonely place to be a player,” said manager Aidan O’Rourke. “As sorry as I felt for the players they are angry in there, and I am hoping that’s going to be the emotion later in the week.”

Louth’s flatness made Kildare look stylish as Jason Ryan’s men flooded the wide expanse of Croke Park, picking their opponents off at will.

With successors to the retired Johnny Doyle needed, Niall Kelly and Padraig Fogarty came of age, while Cathal McNally registered 1-2 of Kildare’s 1-13 first-half total.

Louth’s reply was a paltry 0-5, and every time they clawed back a score Kildare overlapped in numbers. Counter-punching until the opponent stopped swinging.

Fogarty was showing well on the inside forward line, and only for the dexterity of Louth goalkeeper Neil Gallagher they would have conceded four goals.

Kelly was scratching his head in the same manner as Pele at the 1970 World Cup when Gallagher did his best Gordon Banks impression after just five minutes. But their goal, when finally arriving on 14 minutes, was unstoppable.

Simplest ball

At pace and without breaking stride McNally found Keith Cribbin who dished it off to Fogarty before the simplest ball across the square found the still supporting McNally.

Matters for Louth weren’t helped by Mark Donnellan’s solidity in the Kildare goal, especially under high ball.

Shane Lennon – despite the close attentions of Mick Foley – eventually rattled the net in the 50th minute but Kildare were already up to 1-17.

This performance was certainly not in their manager’s own image. O’Rourke never went about his business so flatly in an Armagh jersey.

The scandalously loose marking was best exemplified by Emmet Bolton cruising from wing back to post 0-3. And Bolton worked like a ravenous dog when Louth had the ball.

Endeavour wasn’t the only difference between the sides but it was the most obvious.

“It’s all related,” said O’Rourke. “Our best performances over the last year have all been down to a very, very high work rate and intensity in the tackle. Just go back to the game in Mullingar six weeks ago.

“If you are chasing the ball all day it doesn’t matter how many good footballers you have. We had no energy, very flat, and that turned into no work rate and not making tackles. We thought we had come out the other side of that.


“We have to look at all of our preparations, and try and come up with the answers.”

Louth lost Brian Donnelly to concussion but the rest of them will not have many physical ailments today.

Ryan had the luxury of withdrawing some of his best players – Bolton, McNally and Eamonn Callaghan – long before the finish, and has some welcome selection problems before facing Meath or Carlow on June 29th.

“For sure, coming into today without the highest scoring forward in the league [Darroch Mulhall], and Mick O’Grady was our best defender, was a big blow but the guys coped with it.”

They were efficient and accurate but Ryan knows the final score is as enticing as a mirage to Kildare folk. We are a team in transition. We are not going to say, ‘right, let’s go and win Leinster now or we’re going to win the All-Ireland! Let’s change the whole periodisation for August and September.

“We got to get it right now. For Meath or Carlow. We can’t even think any further.”

So, relax people of Kildare, was Ryan’s post-victory plea.

“Every game there is an element of pressure. The expectation in Kildare is fairly mental.”

It will increase now.

“Which is unjustified as not a lot has changed since 2pm.” KILDARE: 1 M Donnellan; 2 H McGrillen, 3 M Foley, 7 K Cribbin (0-1); 5 O Lyons (0-1), 6 F Conway, 4 E Bolton (0-3); 8 T Moolick (0-1), 12 P O’Neill (0-1); 9 S Hurley, 13 E Callaghan (0-1, capt), 10 C McNally (1-2); 26 P Fogarty (0-3, two free), 15 P Brophy (0-3, one free), 11 N Kelly (0-3). Subs: 20 E O’Flaherty (0-1) for C McNally (45 mins), 23 A Smith (0-2) for S Hurley (53 mins), 14 T O’Connor for D Fogarty, 22 D Flynn for E Callaghan (both 61 mins), 18 C Fitzpatrick for E Bolton (63 mins). LOUTH: 1 N Gallagher; 2 P Rath, 3 D Finnegan, 15 M Fanning; 5 P Reilly, 6 D Crilly, 7 A Reid; 8 P Keenan (0-2, capt), 10 A McDonnell; 4 J O’Brien (0-1), 11 B White, 12 D Maguire; 13 D Byrne, 20 S Lennon (1-3, one free), 14 C Grimes (0-1). Subs: 26 J Stewart for M Fanning (17 mins), 18 R Burns for B White (31 mins), 9 B Donnelly for P Reilly (45 mins), 22 E Lafferty for D Maguire (50 mins), 24 S O’Hanlon for B Donnell (60 mins), 17 R Brodigan for D Byrne (66 mins). Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).

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