Lethal Louth blitz Meath to win Gerry Reilly Cup for the first time
There are attributes you simply cannot coach – positional sense, spatial awareness, pace and natural nous included – but when you add them to workrate, dedication and a high skill level, as instilled by management, the outcome can be lethal.
In becoming the first Louth team to win the Gerry Reilly Cup, since its first staging in 1989, the Reds simply ripped a decent Meath side apart on Sunday night with one of the greatest performances ever seen at the famous Oldcastle tournament.
And it’s certainly no blip. Cavan, in round two, were the only county to get within six points of the Wee juggernaut, for whom Adam Gillespie, Pearse Grimes Murphy, Cormac McKeown and Dylan Shevlin were absolutely awesome.
“When we came in last year, with the U15s, it was hard to find out where the players were at after Covid, etc,” said Louth coach Seán McCann.
“But, straight away, we could tell that there was a good group of lads who were all keen to learn. We’ve 45 lads in the panel who can and could play – they’re a credit to their clubs, themselves and their families.
“Anything we’ve asked of them, they’ve just been magnificent from 1 to 45.”
Not even the late dismissal of lively Mattock Rangers forward Seán Flynn could take the gloss off the triumph. Referee Conor Dourneen, who had a very poor game for a man on an inter-county panel, failed to see a vivid swipe on Louth’s No14 beforehand, but, having consulted with his umpires, had his eyes open for Flynn’s petulant lash back.
The Reds were 4-10 to 1-12 in front when the red card was brandished and yet outscored the hosts over the remainder of a physical affair, 1-1 to no-score, with Shevlin rounding his marker and Meath ’keeper James McCormack for the fifth major.
There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ goal, though each of Louth’s five were fantastic in terms of both execution and team work. Individual excellence, too, with Grimes Murphy’s finish midway through the first half vital in helping the Reds to overcome a rather sluggish start in which John Harkin slotted a penalty past Cian O’Donoghue during the opening minutes.
Indeed, the Royals opened up a four-point gap and were 1-2 to 0-4 in front by the time St Joseph’s speedster Grimes Murphy got the ball in midfield and took off like Usain Bolt, giving a sharp one-two before burying in the net.
The second Wee goal was a result of the ferocious intensity with which Louth played. Gillespie was in like lightning to dispossess an opponent around halfway and having gathered possession, blistered through the heart of the Meath defence, giving to Shevlin and going on for the return pass, which he sent low past McCormack.
A crucial score, right on half-time, it sent the winners into the dressing room with a 2-7 to 1-6 lead. This despite a slow opening and then losing captain Micheál Reid to an early head injury, with James Corcoran coming into the centre-half breach.
Meath twice cut the gap to three at the beginning of the second period, with towering Cian Commons among the registrars, but then Louth simply took off. Gillespie was the architect of the third green flag – setting up the diminutive Jack Healy to finish – while Shevlin used his conditioning and physique to blow a pour in the Royals backline, from a starting position along the right wing, for maximum number four.
And the fifth. A spectacular pass by Gillespie located Shevlin inside and he nonchalantly did the rest, raising arguably the loudest cheer of the night from the considerable travelling contingent.
“Some of the goals we scored were unbelievable and exactly what we want the players to do – move the ball quickly,” McCann added.
“The footballers we have, they’re both footed and they just do everything that is asked of them. We wanted the ball moved quickly, into the boys inside and then have the runners coming, and that’s what they did.
“We probably could have had a couple more – we hit the post and crossbar too.”
Louth simply ran riot. A display for the ages. One which will live long in the memory bank.
Meath: James McCormack; Oliver Maloney, Paddy White, Cormac Liggan; Tom Lenehan 0-1, John Gormley, Ciarán O’Hare; Cian Commons 0-3, David Donnelly; Billy Smith 0-4 (3f), John Harkin 1-3 (1-0pen, 2f), Michael McIvor 0-1; Aaron O’Rourke, Liam Jennings, Kyle Ennis. Subs: Naoise Maguire, Rory Crawley, Oisín Yore, Hugh Kehoe, Andrew Gormley, Tiernan Anderson.
Louth: Cian O’Donoghue; Ciarán McGinty, Caoimhín Prout, Keelan Martin; Cormac McKeown 0-1, Micheál Reid, Shayne Soraghan; Conor McGinty, Paul Galvin; Dylan Shevlin 2-2, Jack Healy 1-2 (0-1f), Pearse Grimes Murphy 1-2; Adam Gillespie 1-2 (0-1f), Seán Flynn 0-1, Shane Lennon 0-1. Subs: James Corcoran, Liam Brannigan, Cian Farrell, Donnacha Hodgins, Paddy McHugh, Justin Cooney, Jack O’Leary, Robbie Matthews, Josh Taaffe.
Referee: Conor Dourneen (Cavan).
Photo Credit: Michael Kinahan (St.Josephs)