Narrow Defeat For Hurlers
Allianz NHL Division 3A
Louth 1-16 Tyrone 1-21
When these sides clashed in the league 12 months ago, at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone inflicted a 15-point defeat on Paul McCormack’s Louth, so a much narrower margin of defeat can be judged as a step in the right direction.
But it could have been so much better had Louth taken all their opportunities in this entertaining Division 3A encounter in Darver on Sunday afternoon.
When the home side opened up a well-merited five-point lead early in the second half, nobody watching from the grassy banks would have foreseen the final result. Ultimately, the turning point came on 58 minutes when, with the sides tied at 0-15 apiece, Louth were awarded a penalty only for Ryan Walsh’s weakly-struck effort to be saved.
The Red Hands capitalised on this missed opportunity to fire over three unanswered points and grabbed what turned out to be a game-clinching goal a minute from full-time when Conor Grogan blasted home.
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Nine of Louth’s starting 15 also began the Nicky Rackard Cup group encounter between the teams last season, with centre-half Liam Molloy, captain on this occasion, one of those to keep his place.
The Reds opened their account with a pointed free on eight minutes from the reliable Darren Geoghegan (cutout) and a foul on full-forward Seaghan Conneely saw last year’s leading light grab his second and third points, before Naomh Moninne colleague Feidhelm Joyce had Louth a point in front by the 12th minute.
Tyrone, with Damien Casey in fine fettle, regained the advantage, but Louth, to their credit, came again, striking four points unanswered, with Geoghegan (3) and Shane Callan registering.
McCormack’s men continued to hold the upper hand, despite losing Roscommon native Niall Keenan on his National League debut to injury, and eased into a four-point advantage when Ronan Byrne landed a monster effort, only for Casey to cut Tyrone’s interval deficit to three, 0-12 to nine.
Nonetheless, substitute Conor Deane and Callan extended the hosts’ lead to five in the early stages of the second period, and with Louth playing so well the outcome looked favourable.
But the Ulster outfit reeled off five points to no reply, levelling via Casey with 20 minutes to play.
The following points were shared as the match petered on a knife-edge until Louth received a major boost when referee Richie Fitzsimons, after consultation with his umpires, awarded Deane a penalty. But goalkeeper Conor McElhatton made himself a hero by stopping Walsh’s shot.
And the miss proved ultra-costly as Tyrone took a three-point lead, which was four by the time a move involving corner-forwards Matthew Mulgrew and Liam Armstrong was finished to the net by Grogan from close range.
Callan bagged a consolation goal for Louth, but Casey’s ninth point of the affair ensured Tyrone departed relatively comfortable victors.
Louth will hope to go one better than their football counterparts when they travel to Pearse Park on Sunday afternoon to take on Longford, the victors over the footballers in their opening Division Three league game. The hurling clash again throws in at 2pm
Louth: Donal Connolly; Andrew Smith, Ronan Byrne (0-2, one free), Stephen Kettle; Jamie McDonnell, Liam Molloy Andrew McCrave (0-1); Niall Keenan, Donal Ryan; Darren Geoghegan (0-8, seven frees), Shane Callan (1-2), Feidhelm Joyce (0-1); David Kettle, Seaghan Conneely, Ryan Walsh (0-1, free)
Subs: Conor Deane (0-1) for Keenan (32), Pádraig Fallon for Geoghegan (44), Andrew Mackin for D Kettle (55), Conor Mathews for McCrave (66), Robert Grace for Walsh (70)
Tyrone: Conor McElhatton; Dean Rafferty, Ruairí Devlin, Dermot Begley; Josh Ferguson, Chris Kearns, Pádraig McHugh; Conor McNally (0-1), Lorcan Devlin (0-3); Ryan Butler, Ryan McGurk, Conor Grogan (1-3); Matthew Mulgrew (0-3), Damian Casey (0-9, eight frees), Liam Armstrong (0-1)
Subs: John McGurk for Butler (44), Ben Gormley (0-1) for McHugh (55)
Referee: Richie Fitzsimons (Offaly)
Report by Maurice Murphy
Photos by Arthur Kinahan