Conor Grimes cuts through Leitrim to win it for Louth
Second-half substitute makes the vital contribution in Drogheda
Fergal Clancy of Leitrim claims the ball ahead of Louth’s Eoghan Lafferty during the All-Ireland Round 1B qualifier in Drogheda. Photograph: Ciaran Culligan/Inpho
Louth 1-16 Leitrim 0-11
Conor Grimes ruthlessly plundered the goal that ushered Leitrim back across the Shannon empty-handed on Saturday night.
The big full-forward was barely on the pitch 30 seconds when he brushed aside two Leitrim defenders and fired past Cathal McCrann.
Although Louth had led from the first minute in Drogheda, Leitrim had never let the gap go beyond four points, but Grimes’s moment of inspiration put seven between the sides – 1-13 to 0-9 – and the visitors had no way back.
Leitrim will rue not making more of a healthy share of first-half possession; a goal chance that flew over the bar rather under, just after Grimes’ strike, may have made for a very different final quarter. Overall, though, Louth were deserving winners.
Colin Kelly’s men forged a three-point lead early on and only the long-range mastery of Fergal Clancy kept Leitrim in touch, cutting the gap back to the minimum. But Louth responded again by opening a four-point cushion and they led by three at the interval, 0-11 to 0-8.
They took a firmer grip after the break, but had only stretched their lead to four before Grimes announced his arrival in emphatic fashion.
Colin Kelly was pleased with his team’s overall display and intimated that after a harsh spring the tide might be turning for the Wee County.
“We now have another two weeks with them, so hopefully we can progress it on another bit.
“We can’t be naive when we come up against certain opposition, but we’re getting a bit of belief, we’re starting to effect game plans and there are fellas coming into the picture that we wouldn’t have expected seven or eight months ago.”
For his opposite number Shane Ward, Grimes’ goal was a killer blow, but he also felt Leitrim could have done more to help themselves.
“We knew Grimes would come in at some stage and we knew he was capable of that. It came at just the right time for Louth, but we went down the other end and opened them up and if that [chance] had gone in it might have changed things.
“Louth definitely took a grip of it in the second half, but I thought we were stop-start in the first half.
“I was disappointed that we held back so much, the plan was to go out and express ourselves.”
LOUTH: C Lynch; P Rath, D Finnegan, A Williams; D Byrne (0-1), D O’Hanlon, A Reid; T Durnin, J Califf (0-3, frees); B Duffy (0-1), P Smith (0-3), C McKeever; R Burns (0-2, one free), C Judge (0-1), R Holcroft (0-3).
Subs: E Lafferty for Rath (10 mins, black card), D Maguire (0-1) for McKeever (40 mins), C Grimes (1-1) for Burns (46 mins), G McSorley for Smith (57 mins), R Moore for Duffy (63 mins), P Kirwan for Holcroft (69 mins).
LEITRIM: C McCrann; M Murphy, R Gallagher, N Woods; S McWeeney (0-1), G Reynolds, D Beck; D Sweeney, S Moran; S Quinn, K Conlan (0-5, three frees), P McGowan; F Clancy (0-4), D Wrynn, A McLoughlin (0-1).
Subs: J McGrail for Moran (22 mins), R Kennedy for McGowan (45 mins), C Farrell for Beck (51 mins), M Plunkett for Wrynn (57 mins).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).