It was a case of mission accomplished for Louth at Clan na Gael Park as Sunday afternoon’s defeat of Down qualified Wayne Freeman’s side for the All-Ireland IFC quarter-final while simultaneously ending a losing run against the Mournewomen.
aving spurned several opportunities to post a lead that reflected their territorial dominance, Louth held only an even share of the 12 first half points despite attacking with the breeze’s aid.
Therefore, with Jessica Foy and Natasha Ferris on form in Down’s forward line, the consensus was that Freeman’s team had allowed a significant opening to slip in a game critical to championship progression.
But with work clearly having been done on both conditioning and method in the weeks since the Leinster campaign ended, Louth were far from flattered by the manner of the outcome.
The display may have been coherent all through, but the individual performances of Eilis Hand, Aoife Halligan and Laura Collins were instrumental in Louth’s seizure of the initiative.
Hand was sublime in her reading of the play and tackling, Halligan was her usual driving force self and burst through for an important point near the end, while Collins underlined her standing as Louth’s leading forward with a virtuoso series of successful kicks from various ranges.
Down led just once in the game, a run of four points in a row midway through the first half undoing the home outfit’s strong start which included points for Collins, Kate Flood and Aoife Russell.
The Mourne girls had settled into a groove and appeared to thrive on receiving cheap possession, several Louth forays forward having broken down due to handpassing and decision-making errors.
But for all their weaving and articulate interchanges, Down couldn’t get in on goal and the offensive sharpness they had in the opening half completely deserted them after the interval.
Meanwhile, with Louth’s direct running yielding frees, Collins continued to add to a lead that was contributed to by Rebecca Carr and Halligan.
When four became the gap late in the encounter, Louth could settle into a conservative mould and block Down from running the ball into a goalscoring position.
They did this, two points being all the away charges could muster despite plenty of huff. And then, on the breakaway, teenage substitute Seona Halligan, who starts her Leaving Cert this week, showed rapid pace and good close control, soloing half the length of the pitch and nonchalantly chipping the ball to the net.
The full-time celebrations indicated the magnitude of this triumph after a rough year results-wise.
Louth: Rebecca Lambe Fagan; Eilis Hand, Sarah Quinn, Holly Lambe Sally; Shannen McLaughlin, Céire Nolan, Aoife Russell 0-1; Aoife Halligan 0-1, Eimear Byrne; Rebecca Carr 0-2, Róisín Kavanagh, Hannah O’Neill; Laura Collins 0-6 (5f), Ciara Woods, Kate Flood 0-1. Subs: Jennie McCourt for O’Neill (33), Eimear Murray for Russell (45), Seona Halligan for Byrne (50), Ruth Hanna for Woods (54), Seona Halligan 1-0 for Collins (57)
Down: Aisling Burns; Oonagh Lavery, Kim White, Orla Boyle; Alice McAlea, Cara McArdle, Natalie McKibben; Meghan Doherty, Aoife Keown 0-1; Sarah Dougherty 0-1, Jessica Foy 0-4 (3f), Adair Mooney; Aimee O’Higgins, Natasha Ferris, Aimee Greene 0-1. Subs: Catriona Caldwell 0-1, Orla Duffy, Orla Swail, Vivienne McCormack, Emily Martin, Aisling Cull 0-1.
Referee: David Hurson (Monaghan).