Hard lesson for Louth as superior Kildare deliver a battering

Little consolation for Mickey Harte as his side struggled to keep up with pace of the game

Kildare’s Mick O’Grady and Tony Archbold with Ciaran Byrne of Louth in the Leinster SFC quarter-final at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

KILDARE 2-22 LOUTH 0-12

Oh mercy. Mickey Harte politely described it as a battering and whether Louth deserved it or not is beside the point. It was no contest.

In the end all it did was reinforce Kildare as potential provincial contenders, although even that remains to be seen. The gulf in class and skill and physique only extended as game time wore on, and it’s hard to tell just how good Kildare actually are.

With nine different scorers, all six forwards scoring from play after 26 minutes, 1-5 coming off the bench, there is unquestionable ability, even if at times their concentration on the task at hand appeared to lapse. Against bigger opposition that won’t be as easily disguised.

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Unbeaten this year in division 3 football, Louth were up for the graft, just not the challenge, and they also finished with 14 men after full-forward Conor Grimes picked up a second booking four minutes from time.

Harte found some consolation in the idea Louth were better than the score suggested, and in glimpses maybe they were. What the former Tyrone manager had to admit was the fact Louth simply weren’t up for the pace of the game, waiting 18 minutes for their first score, at which stage Kildare had already scored seven.

“It was a very high-octane start to the game, and we just got caught on the wrong end of that,” said Harte, in his second season with Louth.

“But I think, overall, our players did not deserve the battering they got on the scoreboard, they didn’t deserve that. They worked harder than that, they’re better than that. And I’ll certainly be telling them that.

“Their kick-outs, they were just getting right up the field, getting ball easy from the kick itself, and then space galore up the sides. We were aware of that, but we just didn’t get into the speed and the thrust of the game so early. Not only that, you might get away with that if the team are not good in their finishing , but they were excellent.”

Joy to watch

It's true Kildare's finishing at times was a joy to watch, Ben McCormack scoring four from play and setting that tempo throughout, Jimmy Hyland as feisty as ever with 0-5. Louth actually had the better goal chances in the first half, including one disallowed by Liam Jackson after a half hour for a square ball, and that was as close as they got.

Starting the second half casually, conceding the first three points, Kildare's next score was a penalty, on 46 minutes, deftly converted by Kevin Feely, after Donal McKenny fouled Daniel Flynn in front of goal.

Louth’s Niall Sharkey fouls Kildare’s Daniel Flynn, leading to a penalty. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Hyland might have added a second shortly after, only his shot fired over the bar instead, and their second goal came just before the end of normal time when replacement Darragh Kirwan fired into an empty net after Paddy Woodgate’s effort spilled in his direction.

Sam Mulroy was doing his best to keep Louth in the game, finishing with 0-5, and although both midfielders, Tommy Durnin and Conor Early, scored from play, Kildare were killing them on the own kick-outs. Flynn is definitely enjoying his football again and should have had more than three points, and there's a calmness about their defence too, particularly around James Murray.

"Very happy with the performance, we're very happy to get the result," said Kildare manager Glenn Ryan. "We knew we'd have a very tough task coming in against Louth, who were coming in with a couple of great performances, victories and promotions over the last couple of years.

“In the second half, they really came at us early on and we had to withstand a lot of pressure and a lot of good play on their part, and thankfully we did. The work rate of our lads was pleasing, and unless we have that every day then it will be more difficult than it should be.”

Loose change

Louth’s forward play did show intent but broke down too easy and too free, lots of possession given away too like loose change. Early’s point came on 18 minutes, Ciarán Byrne adding one before the break; still, eight points down at half-time for Louth felt like a let-off.

They did strike back briefly after the restart, getting it back to five points, but that was a wake-up call for Kildare. Gribbin, Kirwan and then Woodgate – who scored twice in his late appearance – closed out the deal for Kildare and for the first day in May it finished like an early bloom.

“You learn as you go,” said Harte, “and we’ll learn today that there’s a lot to learn. It’s easy to reflect on things and say people were flat. I think maybe our boys didn’t expect such intensity and such power from them, not having faced that in recent times.”

Kildare have it whoever they face next.

KILDARE: 1 M Donnellan; 2 M O'Grady, 3 S Ryan, 4 R Houlihan; 5 T Archbold, 6 J Murray, 7 K Flynn; 8 K Feely (1-0, a penalty), 9 K O'Callaghan; 10 A Beirne (0-1), 11 B McCormack (0-4), 12 P Cribbin (0-3); 13 B McLoughlin (0-1), 14 D Flynn (0-3, one mark), 15 J Hyland (0-5, one free). Subs: 23 D Kirwan (1-3, one free) for McLoughlin (49 mins), 18 P McDermott for Beirne (53), 17 D Hyland for Murray (62), 19 M Joyce for Houlihan, 24 P Woodgate (0-2, one free) for Hyland (both 66).

LOUTH: 1 J Califf; 2 D Corcoran, 3 B Duffy, 4 D McKenny; 5 E Callaghan, 6 N Sharkey, 7 J Clutterbuck; 8 T Durnin (0-1), 9 C Early (0-1); 10 C McKeever, 11 S Mulroy (0-5, one free, one mark), 12 C Downey; 13 L Jackson, 14 C Grimes (0-3, two marks), 15 C Byrne (0-1). Subs: 19 L Grey for Clutterbuck (24 mins), 22 T Jackson for Byrne (h-t), 18 D Campbell for Early (56), 23 C Keenan for Callaghan (58), 26 J Murphy (0-1) for Durnin (67, temp), 17 G Browne for Duffy (73).

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics