Allianz National League Division 3 Final
Louth 1-14 Limerick 0-12
Louth got his first piece of Mickey Harte-era silverware with a stunning five-point win over a whimsical Limerick side.
The Men in Red in Red trailed by one point at half-time, as the Treaty men took advantage of a lull in their opponents midway through the opening period.
However, a spectacular goal from Liam Jackson overturned the tie in the 53rd minute and they never looked back, claiming that division crown for the first time since 2011.
Wee County showed their quality early on, with Donal McKenny’s runs proving to be a huge threat in the early stages of the contest.
Yet it was Limerick who opened the scoring after three minutes, Darragh Treacy forcing a foul from Bevan Duffy, with the close-range shot duly exploited by Josh Ryan.
Louth fired back two minutes later, another solo run from McKenny starting with a good team move that eventually culminated in a 45. On his biggest stage yet, kicker Sam Mulroy calmly dug in on the black dot.
The tactics of both sides quickly became noticeable, with Louth wanting to play the ball at pace and get it from one end of the field to the other as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Munster’s men favored a more patient approach, going through the phases in search of a better opening.
A superb mark from Daire Nally led to Louth’s next score as he took it early to start Ciaran Byrne who was a late addition to the starting lineup as Louth took the lead for the first time.
At this stage, Mickey Harte’s troops were well above and had two great scoring chances over 12 minutes. The first fell on the Louth captain who did well to launch a looping pass over Ciaran Downey. Up close, Donal O’Sullivan made a superb save.
Limerick ended up coming up the field and scoring a point through Adrian Enright, only for Louth to bounce down the pitch at pace. This time Mulroy became provider for Tommy Durnin, his effort was blocked for a 45 which Mulroy carefully placed.
Limerick were starting to draw a lot more fouls from Wee County, but luckily they were getting out of goal range, with plenty of chances for Louth coming straight in returning the ball in their own half.
As was the case with Daire Nally’s score, the young striker completed a counter-attack involving Niall Sharkey, Conal McKeever, Byrne and Mulroy. However, the momentum of the contest turned just as fast as this counterattack, with Louth going nearly 20 minutes scoreless.
Leonard Grey, Mulroy, Downey and Durnin all missed chances for The Wee County, while Limerick on the other hand scored five points in a row.
Hugh Bourke (2), Peter Nash, Michael O’Donovan and Enright all raised white flags, as Green’s men began to dominate the possession stakes. This turn happened as they started to move the ball faster.
Just before half-time, Mulroy scored a late free goal to end Louth’s naked shooting spell, leaving them trailing 0-7 to 0-6 at the break.
Limerick returned to their slower, more patient game plan as the final resumed, moving through phase after phase, stretching Louth’s defense for the majority of the first three minutes. Yet they never gave in and eventually returned the ball.
Unfortunately the resulting attack came to nothing as the Treaty men came forward again with Josh Ryan clocking in on 41 minutes to extend their lead. But Louth responded perfectly, a searing solo run seeing John Clutterbuck get on the scoresheet.
Once again, Billy Lee’s side responded with a score from Josh Ryan’s boot, but the wides began to slip into their game, two poor misses recorded either side of a Byrne point.
After winning every one of their spot-kicks so far, Limerick were finally turned around in the 48th minute, with Byrne close to scoring only to have his shot blocked. But Louth fans would no longer be waiting for a green flag.
Peter Nash and Mulroy exchanged points before a decisive goal, taken in the 53rd minute in sublime fashion by Liam Jackson. Dan Corcoran managed to return the ball deep into his own half and quickly transferred it to Byrne.
The St Mochtas man spotted Jackson’s run, who instead of catching him knocked him off the ground to force him past Brian Fanning. Now gone one-on-one with the goalkeeper, the clubman of Ardee ST Marys made no mistake by sinking into the back of the net.
Another turnover followed as Ciaran Downey returned to regain possession of Louth, that turnover eventually leading to a good score for Durnin who left Louth 1-10 down to 0-10.
Treaty County tried to bounce back with their own goal, coming closest in the 61st minute when Paul Maher linked up nicely with James Naughton. His effort went too high and after deliberation he didn’t even get a point.
From that miss Limerick were a beaten team, as the scores kept coming for Byrne (2), Mulroy and Sharkey. With the intensity quickly waning, Limerick netted three more Robbie Burke frees, but at this stage there was no doubting the outcome.
Mickey Harte had delivered on his promise and brought success and a national trophy to Wee County. The question now will be whether they can build on their momentum with a run at what looks to be Leinster’s most open Championship for some time.
Calif; Dan Corcoran, Bevan Duffy, Donald McKenny; Leonard Grey, Niall Sharkey (0-1), Liam Jackson (1-0); Tommy Durnin (0-1), John Clutterbuck (0-1); Conal McKeever, Sam Mulroy (0-6, 0-2 45’s, 0-3 free), Ciaran Downey; Craig Lennon, Ciaran Byrne (0-4), Daire Nally (0-1). Subs: Tom Jackson for Craig Lennon (25), Eoghan Callaghan for Leonard Gray (27), Conor Grimes for Daire Nally (59), Conor Early for John Clutterbuck (66).
Limerick: Donal O’Sullivan; Sean O’Dea, Brian Fanning, Michael Donovan (0-1); Cian Sheehan, Ian Corbett, Paul Maher; Darragh Treacy, Cillian Fahy; Adrian Enright (0-2), Killian Ryan, James Naughton; Peter Nash (0-2), Josh Ryan (0-2, 0-1 free), Hugh Bourke (0-2). Replacements: Robert Chiles for Cillian Fahy (17), Robbie Burke (0-3 free) for Peter Nash (49), Padraig De Brun enemy Killian Ryan (51), Jim Liston for Josh Ryan (59), Tony McCarthy for Darragh Treacy (66).