In what was a dress-rehearsal for the championship meeting between the teams on May 26, there was plenty to whet the appetite. Louth will have been the more disappointed of the teams in the end, having led by five points with 17 minutes remaining but after a very entertaining game, a draw was probably a fair result.
That would be the neutral’s take on it anyway but the managers were certainly of a different mind. Louth boss Aidan O’Rourke was in no mood to be generous to his players when asked if he was disappointed not to hold out for the win.
“Disappointed is probably an understatement,” he said. “I’d say I’m angry we didn’t win. At this level when you put yourself in the position we put ourselves in, as we also did against Westmeath, you have to close it out.
“With 20 minutes to go we were five points up so not to win is very frustrating. If we won the game tonight we were top of the league and deservedly so. In the first half we started really well and then invited Laois back on to us before half time. The second half again we went to sleep and invited them on to us.”
Justin McNulty was similarly disappointed his team didn’t manage to win the game after making a great comeback in the second half.
“We did that [make a comeback] and I think it showed tremendous courage, tremendous character and tremendous belief from our lads, but we got ourselves in a position to close it out and we didn’t do that, so that’s disappointing, and we’ll have to look at it again and figure out why that was the case.”
Louth, led by the impressive Shane Lennon, had started well and were 0-6 to 0-2 up after 20 minutes, with Laois offering little in attack. It wasn’t until John O’Loughlin moved out to midfield from centre-back that they started to come to life and O’Loughlin’s blistering run and goal helped them get back level at half time, 1-6 to 0-9.
Louth again took control in the second half, with substitute Derek Maguire outstanding. They worked two fine goals from Andy McDonnell and Kevin Rogers to go five ahead, but from that stage on were outscored by six points to one by Laois as Walsh’s late free earned the home side a draw.
Scorers for Laois: R Munnelly (3fs), G Walsh (3fs) 0-5 each, J O’Loughlin 1-2, C Begley, MJ Tierney (45) 0-2 each, B Sheehan 0-1.
Scorers for Louth: K Rogers 1-3 (0-2fs), B White 0-4 (2f, 2 45s), A McDonnell 1-1, S Lennon 0-3, R Carroll, D Crilly, A Reid 0-1.
LAOIS: E Culliton; D Booth, M Timmons, P O’Leary; D Strong, J O’Loughlin, C Boyle; B Quigley, K Meaney; R Munnelly, C Coss, C Begley; MJ Tierney, G Walsh, B Sheehan.
Subs: C Healy for Strong (44), C Kelly for Coss (47), P McMahon for Meaney (67).
LOUTH: N Gallagher; J O’Brien, D Finnegan, G Hoey; D Crilly, M Fanning, A Reid; P Keenan, B Donnelly; B White, R Carroll, A McDonnell; P Smith, S Lennon, K Rogers.
Subs: D Maguire for Smith (33), C Rafferty for Lennon (47, inj), D Clarke for Carroll (54), D Reid for Rogers (68).
Ref: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).