Match Report: NFL Division 4 Final
By Larry Cooney
Louth footballers will be coming to Ruislip this weekend accompanied by the Division 4 Cup after a thoroughly deserved four point victory over Antrim at Croke Park last Saturday.
Despite a poor start the Wee County produced a stirring second half display helped considerably by two goals to capture the NFL Division Four title.
Goals usually win matches and Louth became the first side this year to put more than one past Antrim as Derek Maguire in the first half, Jim McEneaney and finally Conor Grimes all raised green flags. Indeed it was Antrim who looked the more impressive in the first half and were good value for their 1-9 to 1-6 lead at the break.
However twice Antrim went long periods without scoring, but their twenty minute barren spell during the second half ultimately led to their downfall. It was therefore a disappointing climax to their league campaign for the Saffrons who were off the mark after just twenty seconds with a Tomas McCann pointed from play.
Antrim soon doubled their lead when Brian Neeson converted a close range free, but by the fifth minute Louth were ahead as Derek Maguire was played through before he blasted the ball to the roof of the net.
Although that score was against the run of play it seemed to settle the Wee County even though it was Antrim who hit the next two scores as points from Matthew Fitzpatrick and Conor Murray put the Saffrons deservedly back into the lead.
Then a moment of inspiration from Jim McEneaney saw the Louth centre forward curl over a line ball with the outside of his boot, reminiscent of Maurice Fitzgerald’s wonder score against Dublin in Thurles many years ago.
Louth now had Maguire back helping out his defence, but he still managed to counter-attack and kick the next point to make it 1-3 to 0-4 after just fifteen minutes.
With no further scoring for the next seven minutes Richard Johnson then moved forward to kick a good score.
An excellent score by Tommy Durnin was also sandwiched in between two converted frees by McCann. But Antrim were back in front on the half-hour mark as Tomas McCann laid off to Fitzpatrick and his low shot settled in the corner of the net, 1-7 to 1-4.
Three frees completed the first half scoring as McCann kicked over two to bring his tally for the half to five points, while in between these was a score from Ryan Burns. Third quarter Louth surge decisive Although Antrim settled well after the restart with two McCann points a Burns free for Louth led to the ‘game changing’ moment for the winners.
An answered 1-4 from the Wee County left the Ulstermen completely rattled. After Califf pointed a free, then Declan Byrne’s goal-bound effort was deflected over the bar.
Califf added another free and then probably the biggest moment in the game as a smart Louth move was begun and ended by McEneaney who picked his spot and fired to the net. Burns then added a free to make it 2-10 to 1-11 by the 59th minute and it looked as if Antrim were out of this game.
However, points from Patrick McBride and Murray, ended Antrim’s 20 minute barren spell, and had the sides level once again. But a long range free by Burns was cancelled out by a similar effort by McCann at the other end, but this was to be their last score as Grimes goal in the 71st minute sealed a famous win for Louth.
Antrim did go close on a couple of occasions but Maguire capped a fine afternoon with the last point of the game.