Louth stun Cork to secure maiden All-Ireland quarter-final appearance

Sam Mulroy strikes with a free deep into injury time to secure a famous victory for the Wee County

Louth’s Sam Mulroy celebrates with fans after the victory over Cork. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Louth 1-9 Cork 1-8

Grattan Park in Inniskeen, it has become Louth’s unlikely field of dreams. They have encountered history twice here in four weeks and on each occasion Louth met the moment on their terms.

Perhaps the stadium build in Dundalk can wait a while longer because the county’s footballers are building something bricks and mortar can never generate – emotion, passion, memories, devotion.

Sam Mulroy stood over a 73rd minute free on a sunny June afternoon knowing what happened next would follow his career forever more. Louth and Cork were level on 1-8 apiece. Three minutes of added time had been announced. Ger Brennan looked out from the sideline and never doubted where the ball was going.

“He’s just a super captain, a super talent, the work he puts in, that takes an awful lot of balls to be able to do that, not to mention the god given skill,” said the Louth manager.


Cork were afforded one more play to force extra-time in this preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final but Louth squeezed the Rebels towards the bottom right corner of the pitch and Mulroy was involved in turning over the ball.

At the final whistle, hundreds of supporters spontaneously poured down from the stand and terraces – Louth had beaten Cork for the first time in championship football since the 1957 All-Ireland final.

The victory sees them through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the first time. All this just one month after Louth beat Meath at the Monaghan venue to chalk up a first championship win over their neighbours since 1975.

“It’s just a tremendous achievement for the group and for Gaelic football in county Louth,” added Brennan.

“The support is continuing to grow and grow. It wasn’t a pretty performance by any means, but the resilience and determination the lads showed throughout the 70 odd minutes was just a credit to them, a credit to the clubs and all the people who have put work in with these players.”

Cork led 1-5 to 0-5 at half-time but they managed to score just a single point during the first 26 minutes of the second half.

Donal McKenny’s 56th minute goal was a crucial score in the narrative of the match and injected Louth with real belief.

The first half of the contest had been a cagey affair with the game often plodding along at sloth pace, both teams dropping everybody back and challenging the side in possession to break them down.

All too often the attacking play was too ponderous and laboured by both teams.

Midfielder Colm O’Callaghan scored three first half points for Cork – two with his right, one with his left – but a brace of scores from Ryan Burns gave Louth a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage in the 19th minute.

Louth manager Ger Brennan celebrates at the final whistle after beating Cork. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

However, it would be 17 minutes before the Wee County added another score. During that period, Cork scored 1-3 without reply.

O’Callaghan hit two of those points but the goal came from full-back Daniel O’Mahony. He was able to drift in behind the Louth defence but still had a lot of work to do when Ian Maguire floated the ball over the top.

O’Mahony spotted Niall McDonnell racing out from his line and improvised cleverly with a beautifully weighted palmed ball over the Louth goalkeeper, 1-5 to 0-4.

Mulroy tapped over a free in injury-time to leave three between the sides at the interval but it took Louth only eight minutes after the restart to reel in the Rebels – thanks to points from Mulroy, Paul Mathews and a wonderful score by man of the match Craig Lennon following a perfectly executed dummy hop.

It took Cork 16 minutes to open their second half account, with Brian Hurley curling over to edge the visitors ahead by the minimum again.

Bevan Duffy made a superb dispossession on Rory Maguire in the middle of the field moments later and the turnover sent Louth through on a three versus two attack but they butchered the opportunity and failed to even come away with a point.

But McKenny’s goal arrived soon after – a long speculative shot by Conor Grimes dropped short but Cork goalkeeper Christopher Kelly failed to hold the ball, spilling it to the awaiting McKenny, 1-8 to 1-6.

“We were ahead at that stage and a score like that was going to have a huge bearing on the game,” said Cork manager John Cleary. “In fairness to them, when they got their opportunity they took it, like we did in the first half.”

Cork kicked three wides in the minutes after that Louth goal but two points by Chris Óg Jones – one after a brilliant McDonnell save from Eoghan McSweeney – dragged the visitors level again.

It seemed extra-time was on the cards, but the brilliant Lennon somehow found the energy to race forward deep in injury time, forcing Cork on the back foot and ultimately he was awarded a free just to the right of the Louth posts near the 20 metre line.

Up stepped Mulroy. Up stepped history. Up stepped Louth.

Louth: Niall McDonnell; Dermot Campbell, Dan Corcoran, Donal McKenny (1-0); Bevan Duffy, Anthony Williams, Conall McKeever; Tommy Durnin, Ciarán Byrne; Conor Early, Ciarán Keenan, Craig Lennon (0-2); Ryan Burns (0-2), Sam Mulroy (0-4, four frees), Conor Grimes.

Subs: Paul Mathews (0-1) for Byrne (27 mins), Leonard Grey for Early (63 mins), Liam Jackson for Burns (69 mins).

Cork: Christopher Kelly; Kevin Flahive, Daniel O’Mahony (1-0), Tommy Walsh; Maurice Shanley, Rory Maguire (0-1), Matty Taylor; Ian Maguire, Colm O’Callaghan (0-3); Ruairí Deane, Mark Cronin, Brian O’Driscoll (0-1); Brian Hurley (0-1), Chris Óg Jones (0-2), Steven Sherlock.

Subs: Thomas Clancy for T Walsh (24 mins), Eoghan McSweeney for Deane (51 mins), Seán Powter for Sherlock (57 mins), Conor Corbett for Cronin (60 mins).

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times