Toner goal crucial as Derry hold off Louth in Ardee
Niall Toner’s 58th-minute goal was enough for unbeaten Derry to see off a valiant Louth in an even Division 2 encounter at DEFY Pairc Mhúire in Ardee.
For the second week running, having been caught by a late Clare surge in round one, Mickey Harte will wonder how his side didn’t post any points on the board while Derry gritted their teeth and showed their promotion intentions by getting the job done, despite not playing overly well.
The whispers around the ground proved true beforehand, with debutant outfielder Peter McStravick starting his first game in red and white in goals. The rookie net-minder batted away the high ball for Toner’s decisive goal. That alone will lead to further chatter during the week in the Wee County.
On home soil, Tom Jackson set the tone for the impressive underdogs on the day, a late call up for Louth on the day but the surroundings were familiar for the Ardee man as he slotted over the bar.
Derry were relying on Paul Cassidy to prise through the marginal gaps in the stacked Louth defence. Keeping it tight was the agenda for Harte’s side as they set up with 14 to 15 men, behind the ball at all times.
That tactic looked bleak when Cassidy landed his second after Shane McGuigan drilled home a penalty in the 10th minute. McGuigan floated between the two lines but a direct ball inside saw the Slaughtneil star fouled for a penalty he converted himself.
Louth full-forward Conor Grimes was playing very deep and marked Conor Glass for every Odhran Lynch kick-out. That ploy worked but also doubled up as a platform for Louth to get back into the game.
Grimes whipped over from deep and Liam Jackson finished off a fine move to get the host and the especially large home crowd back into the game. It was a clever hand pass from Sam Mulroy that opened up the way for Jackson to coolly slot home.
Two classy McGuigan scores sandwiched Louth’s best passage of play in the run into half time. Niall Sharkey and a pair of Dáire McConnon frees looked to have given the home side a deserved advantage at the break but McGuigan made it a draw game 1-06 a piece.
Sam Mulroy and McGuigan went point for point at the beginning of the second half but Louth were comfortable and growing in confidence. Craig Lennon came off the bench to point and Tom Jackson bagged his second to push the hungry hosts two ahead.
Then, against the run of play, the All-Ireland semi-finalists found a way.
An agricultural high ball in did the trick. The inexperience of McStravick and the nous of Toner was enough to see Rory Gallagher’s men over the line.
Louth: Peter McStravick; Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, Donal McKenny; Leonard Grey, Niall Sharkey (0-01), Conall McKeever; Conor Early, Ciaran Murphy; Liam Jackson (1-00), Sam Mulroy (0-03, 0-01m, 0-01f), Tom Jackson (0-02); Ciarán Downey; Conor Grimes (0-01), Daire McConnon (0-03, 0-02fs).
Subs: Craig Lennon (0-01) for L Jackson (51), Peter Lynch for McKenny (64), Tommy Durning for Murphy (64), Jay Hughes for McConnon (64), Bevan Duffy for Sharkey (75).
Derry: Odhran Lynch; Chrissy McKaigue, Eoin McEvoy, Conor McCluskey; Padraig McGrogan (0-02), Conor Doherty, Paul Cassidy (0-02); Brendan Rogers, Conor Glass; Niall Toner (1-01), Shane McGuigan (1-05, 1-00pen, 0-03fs), Ethan Doherty; Benny Heron, Lachlan Murray, Niall Loughlin.
Subs: Oisín McWilliams (0-01) for E Doherty (46), Padraig Cassidy for McEvoy (49), Ben McCarron for Loughlin (59), Matthew Downey for Murray (66), Shea Downey for Heron (69).
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).
Photo Credit: Ciaran Culligan
Article: Dan Bannon
Highlights of Louth v Derry 5-02-23
Video Credit-Shane Cunningham