Louth 5-10 Carlow 0-10
It's not every day that Louth come away with a 15-point win in the Leinster SFC and an overwhelming sense of unfulfillment.
This was Louth's first Championship win under Mickey Harte also but it's a measure of the Division 3 champions' confidence right now that they looked almost despondent afterwards.
Sam Mulroy, for example, kicked 2-5, adding to the 3-51 he plundered in the league, yet had a one-word answer when asked if he was satisfied with his display. "No," the captain deadpanned.
Conor Grimes, Ciaran Byrne and Tommy Durnin struck goals too though Louth could probably have doubled their majors tally given their superiority, particularly in the final quarter hour or so.
Donal McKenny, along with subs Ciaran Keenan, Craig Lennon and Gerard Browne, all went close too, a threat that Leinster quarter-final opponents Kildare will have to be aware of in Tullamore next Sunday afternoon.
“Overall we were disappointed with the performance in many respects,” said Harte. “That’s a strange thing to say when you win by five goals but I felt with the breeze we overplayed the ball a bit and got turned over too often.
“I think Carlow would have been very happy at half-time having played against a strong breeze to have been within touching distance.”
Unfortunately for a callow -ooking Carlow outfit, they were painfully unable to capitalise and having conceded first-half goals to Grimes and Byrne, they went on to leak three more.
Worryingly for Louth, goalscorer Byrne hobbled gingerly from the pitch in the 43rd minute with an ankle injury that threatens to keep the former AFL player out of the Kildare game. He would be a significant loss and Louth will be considerable underdogs, a challenge Harte can’t say for certain if Louth will rise to.
“We’ll be meeting different stuff from here on in,” he said. “So I don’t know how we’ll go until we go toe to toe with Kildare and we’ll see how much of a gulf there is between a team that is a regular Division 1 team, occasionally Division 2, though never staying there very long, and a team that has just come up from the basement. There has to be a gulf in class there so we have to see how much we can close that gulf.”
Niall Carew, starting three Championship debutants and shorn of the likes of retired former All-Star nominee Paul Broderick from Carlow's attack, is now planning for the inaugural Tailteann Cup.
"I think Croke Park have a big job to sell it to the players," suggested Carew.
Asked if all of his Carlow squad will stick around for the Tier 2 championship, the former Sligo and Waterford manager shrugged.
“I suppose I’ll know Friday night,” he said. “I hope so.”
Carlow’s players bought ice-creams in the local service station on their way home from Navan. The Louth players fuelled up on protein shakes with a short turnaround to the Kildare game.
They still have everything to play for this season. They shook off Carlow inside 20 minutes with Grimes’ goal, when he rifled to the net following a move down the right, putting them 1-5 to 0-1 clear.
Carlow steadied themselves with points from Niall Hickey and Darragh Foley before being suckered by Byrne's goal when he rounded the goalkeeper and tapped in soccer style.
Louth weren’t flattered by the 2-6 to 0-5 lead and their third goal, from midfielder Durnin in the 49th minute following a clever Mulroy flick on, proved the clincher.
It sent Louth 10 points clear and as Carlow opened up in the final 20 minutes or so, they were caught for two more goals with Mulroy claiming them both, the second from a 68th minute penalty.
Louth: J Califf; D Corcoran, B Duffy, D McKenny; L Jackson, N Sharkey, E Callaghan; T Durnin (1-1), C Earley (0-1); J Clutterbuck, S Mulroy (2-5, 1-0pen, 0-3f, 0-1 45), C McKeever; C Downey (0-2), C Grimes (1-1), C Byrne (1-0). Subs: C Keenan for Byrne (43 mins), T Jackson for McKeever (56), C Lennon for L Jackson (61), L Grey for Callaghan (66), G Browne for McKenny (66).
Carlow: C Cunningham; L Roberts, S Buggy, C Doyle; J Morrissey, M Bambrick, S Bambrick; L Brennan, E Ruth; J Moore (0-1), J Clarke (0-1, 1f), D O'Brien; C Crowley (0-1), D Foley (0-3, 2f), C Hulton (0-1). Subs: N Hickey (0-1) for M Bambrick (11 mins), R Dunphy (0-2) for Brennan (39), M Ware for Hickey (53), S Clarke for Buggy (56), O Roberts for Moore (61).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).