Louth awaken from slumber as Dublin collapse

 

WITH two more points dropped and another season in the second division pending, Dublin's winter of discontent has drifted into spring - with no relief in sight. Louth, by contrast, are bubbling nicely and on target for promotion with four wins out of five.

A win at Parnell Park yesterday, however, seemed beyond them when they trailed by five points early in the second half. Worse than that, they had been clueless in an attack that mixed dreadful finishing with laborious moves and cul-de-sac solo running.

But they got a decisive break in the 44th minute when referee Pat Casserly awarded a penalty to Pat Butterly. The corner forward took an exquisite crossfield pass from Colin Kelly and was upended just inside the square. Kelly buried the penalty and Louth were suddenly in the game.

"That penalty gave them life where it didn't exist previously," said a dejected Mickey Whelan after the game. The Dublin manager was baffled as to why his team collapsed in the last quarter, but recognised how: "They took over in midfield, we couldn't get the ball past midfield."

Louth manager Paul Kenny said midfielder Seamus O'Hanlon gave "a truly magnificent display." Some of his fielding was spectacular and, with substantial help from his partner Ken Reilly, Louth virtually owned the ball during that final quarter.

Dublin had been weakened in midfield before then, however, when Darren Homan retired 10 minutes into the second half and Ciaran Whelan moved out from wing forward. Homan had taken a heavy knock in the first minute and left the dressing room afterwards with a fat lump over his left eye, concussed and on his way to hospital.

That incident set the tone for what was a rather spiteful first half Louth seemingly the more anxious to mix it. "It was a very bruising encounter," said the Dublin manager, "it was almost a championship game out there." A sending-off seemed inevitable as the bookings mounted but both teams settled down after the break.

Dublin led 0-4 to 0-2 at this stage, Louth having laboured with little imagination in the first half. "We were very disappointed at half time with our performance," said Kenny. "We hadn't done ourselves justice but we knew we had a bit of diesel left in the tank and I think we showed greater hunger in the second half."

Louth's first-half points came from Kelly, their only forward to score. The Newtown Blues player was, once again, the critical actor in attack, having the requisite class to convert some of that abundant possession coming from midfield.

Kenny will surely contemplate the fact that it took so much possession to score a modest 1-7, with none of the other eight forwards used chipping in. They racked up eleven wides and a similar number of attempts that fell short. Their problems were compounded by O'Hanlon's repeated tendency to run at the Dublin defence rather than deliver early, accurate ball inside.

They might have turned it earlier than they actually did had Cathal O'Hanlon converted a clear-cut chance in the first minute of the second half. A long ball over the top found O'Hanlon behind the full back line, waiting for the ball to come down. He had time to gather and kick. Instead, he appeared to panic and ended up palming it feebly into the hands of a grateful David Byrne.

Dublin immediately took control, Charlie Redmond launching a monster point in the second minute and driving a free in the third. Paul Clarke's point four minutes later left them leading 0-7 to 0-2 and well in command. Kelly then won a free which he converted and six minutes later ignited the Louth revival with that penalty.

A point two minutes later by Gerry Curran, raiding from right half back, had them level for the first time but their comeback still looked fragile when Redmond again put Dublin in front with another long free. It was to be Dublin's last score of the game, however.

Kelly added three more points, the second of these, in the 22nd minute, probably the score of the game - his shot from a difficult angle way out on the left wing had just enough legs to bounce on the crossbar and over.