Leinster SFC: Impressive Louth advance
Leinster Senior Football Championship
LOUTH 0-22 WEXFORD 1-14
By Ronan Fagan at Innovate Wexford Park
Substitute Ryan Burns made his mark as Louth steam-rolled Wexford in the closing stages at sunny Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday to secure a showdown with reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin in the May 25th Leinster SFC quarter-final.
A 48th-minute Kevin O'Grady penalty seemed to put Wexford on the road to their first success in Leinster since 2014 as they led 1-14 to 0-14 after 61 minutes. But Wayne Kierans' Louth launched eight unanswered scores during the last eight minutes, including a trio from the inspirational Burns, to face down Jim Gavin's charges in the last-four.
Louth would certainly have been cursing their luck in front of goal had victory eluded them, as Wexford 'keeper Matt Doyle, on his Senior Championship debut, distinguished himself with a brace of saves from Jim McEnaney and another at the expense of Conal McKeever.
The first of those interventions arrived after an early exchange of points, with McEnaney then seeing his penalty kept out by Doyle.
The game was largely mediocre as the sides exchanged four further points, with Louth midfielder James Califf giving the visitors their first taste of the lead on 23 minutes only for Ben Brosnan to quickly level (0-5 apiece).
Jonathan Bealin shoved Wexford ahead by 0-7 to 0-5 shortly before goalkeeper Doyle again came to their rescue when keeping out a pile-driver from Conal McKeever on 32 minutes.
A Sam Mulroy free pegged it back to 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time, although he wasted a chance to gain parity at the end of an opening 35 minutes which caused little concerns for any Dublin spies.
Declan Byrne lifted Louth on the resumption when transforming matters by 0-8 to 0-7 inside 70 seconds. But Wexford reaffirmed control by 0-11 to 0-9 after 43 minutes with a burst of scores from Jonathan Bealin (2) along with defenders Glen Malone and Martin O'Connor.
Louth maintained considerable interest though, and after James Califf and Declan Byrne had restored parity for a seventh-time after 45 minutes (0-11 apiece), the Wee County saw Jim McEnaney once again denied a goal by Matt Doyle.
Wexford then carved out a major breakthrough themselves on 48 minutes, when Kevin O'Grady netted a penalty forced by Eoghan Nolan, and the purple-and-gold determinedly maintained the advantage after 61 minutes (1-14 to 0-14).
But Louth shifted the momentum considerably during the remaining minutes, as star substitute Ryan Burns (3) combined with Jim McEnaney, Andy McDonnell, Ciarán Downey, William Woods and Tommy Durnin to sweep the red-and-white through to a rather daunting Leinster quarter-final mission against Dublin.
Scorers for Louth: James Califf 0-5 (2fs), Ryan Burns 0-4 (1 45), Sam Mulroy (3fs) and Declan Byrne 0-3 each, Andy McDonnell 0-2, Conal McKeever, Jim McEnaney, Ciarán Downey, William Woods, Tommy Durnin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Wexford: Jonathan Bealin 0-7 (4fs), Kevin O’Grady 1-0 (penalty), Ben Brosnan 0-3, Glen Malone 0-2, Conor Devitt, Martin O’Connor 0-1 each.
LOUTH: Fergal Sheeky; Fergal Donohoe, Emmet Carolan, James Craven; Anthony Williams, Bevan Duffy, John Clutterbuck; Tommy Durnin, James Califf; Ciarán Downey, Jim McEneaney, Conal McKeever; Andy McDonnell, Sam Mulroy, Declan Byrne.
Subs: Dan Corcoran for Williams (temp., 5); Conor Early for Califf (50); Eoghan Duffy for Clutterbuck (56); Ryan Burns for Mulroy (56); Ronan Holcroft for McEnaney (62); Dan Corcoran for Donohoe (63); William Woodsfor Byrne (67).
WEXFORD: Matt Doyle; Michael Furlong, Martin O'Connor, Conor Carty; Glen Malone, Brian Malone, Eoin Porter; Daithí Waters, Niall Hughes; Conor Devitt, Barry O'Connor, Eoghan Nolan; Kevin O'Grady, Ben Brosnan, Jonathan Bealin.
Subs: Gavin Sheehan for Carty (8, black-card); Tiarnan Rossiter for Hughes (40); Robert Frayne for Nolan (63); John Tubritt for Devitt (67); James Cash for Porter (68); David Shannon for Waters (black-card, 70+3).
REFEREE: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary).