Louth u16s shaded a thrilling contest with Wicklow in Millbrook, Oldcastle, on Saturday last (29th July) to retain the Gerry Reilly Shield, collecting the county’s second piece of silverware in 28 years of the tournament.
Although Louth went into the game short of several key players unavailable on holidays, and had a number of other players needing late fitness tests before finalising selection, the management team are blessed to have a squad of 37 players on this age all fighting for starting places. While Cooley goalkeeper Cian Rogan was selected to start, he had to pull out at the final moment to be replaced by Martin McEneaney, the St Patricks man stepping in to produce several key saves at key junctures as well as solid kickouts throughout the game.
Louth played in to a stiff wind in the first half and were struggling to contain the Wicklow full forward line early on, falling 1-1 behind inside 4 minutes, the goal coming from a penalty after a turnover of Louth possession. Gabriel Bell pointed Louth’s first score on 7 minutes after Ryan Walsh fielded a Wicklow kickout. McEneaney pulled off a wonder save in the 11th minute to keep the Wicklow attack at bay. The teams then exchanged points, Jonathan Commins from a free for Louth after a foul on Bell. Louth were then in for a goal chance but the Wicklow keeper got down well to prevent a shot from Patrick Johnston finding the corner of the net in the 18th minute. Wicklow then pointed a free before Louth scored 3 unanswered points from Commins, 2 frees and the third from play after a fine pass from Johnston, to leave it 0-5 to 1-4 in the 22nd minute. A Wicklow point in the 28th minute was cancelled out by another Commins free after a foul on Ryan Walsh to leave it Louth 0-6 Wicklow 1-5 at the break.
With a strong wind advantage to come and a Gabriel Bell point inside 2 minutes reducing the deficit to a single point, neutral observers may have been worried for Wicklow at the start of the 2nd half, but they weren’t going lightly and their full forward finished to the net after a long untracked run from their left half back. Louth were now 4 points adrift and they then accumulated 4 bad wides, and were 5 adrift after a pointed Wicklow free. It could have been game over in the 9th minute when McEneaney and his defenders did well to prevent what looked a certain goal for the Garden County.
That missed chance provided the wake up call the Wee County needed and they now hit a purple patch, inspired in no small measure by Cathal Fleming in the half-forward line and substitute Sean Healy who added real movement and a touch of class when introduced as substitute to the full forward line. Louth hit 10 unanswered points between the 10th to the 24th minute with 3 scores from Fleming, 2 from Walsh, 2 from Commins, 2 from Healy and the tenth from big Joe Mee who set a fine example as team captain from midfield throughout, to leave the scoreline 0-17 to 2-7, with just over 5 minutes to go.
However, Wicklow enjoyed a late spell of dominance and a goal in the 27th minute and a pointed free in the 29th minute had the teams level, 0-17 to 3-8.
With the game in the balance the Wee County now re-exerted their supremacy, Commins landed a point in the 30th minute, Mee chipped over an angled point from near the end line after great play by James Harper on 31, Fleming landed another monster point on 33 and in the 35th minute Walsh converted a free after a foul on substitute Eoghan Ryan to leave the Reds out in front by 4 points to close the scoring at 0-21 to 3-8.
Jubilant scenes greeted the referee’s final whistle. Cathal Fleming was presented with the Man of the Match award before captain Joe Mee held aloft the Shield trophy.
The squad will meet this coming Thursday for their final session to end this phase of their season before they are released back to their clubs for a busy schedule of u16 and Minor league and championship fixtures.
They will re-convene in September to prepare for the upcoming Fr Manning Cup competition in October, where they will hope to build on this success, which has been the result of the dedication and commitment from the full panel of players.
Louth Scorers; 0-8 (4f) Jonathan Commins; 0-4 Cathal Fleming; 0-3 (3f) Ryan Walsh; 0-2 each Gabriel Bell, Sean Healy and Joe Mee.
Louth Team; Martin McEneaney (St Patricks); Caolán McCabe (Dundalk Young Irelanders), Finbarr Lynch (St Kevins), Jamie Winters (Naomh Máirtín); Aaron McDonnell (Dreadnots), Ruairí O’Hanlon (St Colmcilles), James Harper (St Kevins); James McGillick (Ardee St Marys), Joe Mee (Cooley Kickhams); Conor Faulkner (Dreadnots), Gabriel Bell (St Josephs), Cathal Fleming (Mattock Rangers); Patrick Johnston (Cooley Kickhams), Ryan Walsh (St Fechins), Jonathan Commins (Ardee St Marys).
Louth Subs: Sean Healy (Naomh Máirtín) for Faulkner; Nathan Buckley (Ardee St Marys) for McDonnell; Conor Quigley (Kilkerley Emmets) for McGillick; Eoghan Ryan (St Fechins) for Johnston; Darragh McCoy (Ardee St Marys) for McCabe; Jay Crawley (Ardee St Marys) for Winters.
Unused Subs: Cian Rogan (Cooley Kickhams), Andrew Lennon (St Mochtas), Gerard White (Cooley Kickhams), Pádraig Duffy (St Patricks), Craig Lennon (St Mochtas), Adam Harper (St Kevins), Joseph Connor (St Patricks), Craig Callan (Clan na Gael), TJ Doheny (St Kevins), Adam Fee (Roche Emmets)
Players Unavailable: Bobby Butterly (Stabannon Parnells), Ewan McEnteggart (Kilkerley Emmets), Mícheál Begley (Kilkerley Emmets), Paul McEvoy (St Fechins), Dáire Nally (Newtown Blues), Joe Gordon (Naomh Máirtín).