Louth survive in Division 3A despite humbling by Mayo in last round of the National Hurling League
Louth manager Paul McCormack put it accurately when describing the margin of his team’s defeat by Mayo in Saturday afternoon’s clash at Darver as “cruel”, although there was no denying the Connacht county’s superiority in almost every exchange.
n spite of the 20-point loss, the outcome actually pleased the hosts more than Mayo, whose promotion aspirations were quashed courtesy of results elsewhere that, incidentally, ensured Louth will remain in Division 3A for a third consecutive campaign.
Mayo may have hit 18 wides over the contest, while it took until the second half for free-taker Cormac Phillips to settle into a clinical rhythm, but they were ruthless when goalscoring chances presented themselves.
Adrian Phillips and Eoin Delaney combined for two majors apiece – with Joe McManus adding a late fifth – and the lethal inside pair tortured Louth’s overworked full-backs, particularly when Peter Fortune was ushered in to a more advanced role having covered well as an extra Louth defender for much of the opening period.
The Reds just didn’t have that decisive streak at the other end and spurned their only goal opening of note when teenage full-forward Conor Murphy – who got the better of his marker throughout – deflected his shot over the crossbar with Mayo goalkeeper Bobby Douglas having lost his bearings momentarily.
It was a huge moment in the match as within three minutes, Phillips enforced the raising of the game’s first green flag, sending the sliotar past Dan O’Neill, who made two vital stops but was also thankful for last-ditch interventions by Feidhelm Joyce and Liam Molloy on separate occasions as Mayo sought to inflict further punishment on the Wee men.
The second and third goals came at gut-punching times for the home team. Delaney rattled the net five minutes before the interval and while Louth’s response was immediate, via Darren Geoghegan (2) and Aaron McGuinness-Smith notches, another Phillips maximum carved a five-point gap in Mayo’s favour by half-time, 0-9 to 3-5.
“In the first 20 minutes, we were ultra-competitive, winning, had chances and were playing well,” said McCormack.
“Then, Mayo’s higher level experience and physicality began to show. We regrouped at half-time and made a good start to the second half but they just wore us down. The scoreboard is maybe cruel on us in that we left goal chances behind us and they were absolutely ruthless.
“To the fellas’ credit, I feel we deserve to stay in this division and we’re playing at the right level. However, we’ve got to be more ready for this level in the Nicky Rackard and that requires more work on the pitch, in the gym and their own personal work. A good bit done, but definitely more to do.”
Seán Kerrisk and Liam Molloy were again very prominent in the Louth cause, while Murphy and Seaghan Conneely had their moments, with Danny Morgan unrelenting in his workrate at the back.
But Mayo’s class told emphatically during the second half as Phillips started to point from varying angles off the deck. Although his sole stroke from play was absolutely fantastic as he fetched a puckout by Douglas and immediately fired over from halfway.
The gap was four points with 42 minutes played, but there persisted a sense that the result was never in any doubt despite Louth’s best efforts. So it turned out as Mayo outscored the Reds by 1-10 to 0-1 over the closing quarter, McManus turning up the five-timer with a rasping conversion in injury-time.
“There were no easy games in this division and it’s about utilising the resources we have,” McCormack added, reflecting on the campaign.
“We’ve been hit by a lot of serious injuries over the course of the campaign. Conor Quigley played no minutes, Feidhelm Joyce was in and out, Jamie McDonnell missed (Mayo) and Pádraig Fallon.
“These are lads who we need to have on the field but then the fellas who have stepped up, young lads, boys who are playing at this level for the first time coming off a small club season at a different level.
“You have to take all that into consideration. As a management team, we’re trying to develop and improve the players all the time and hopefully we’re doing that and they can see progress. I think there’s lots of progress there but we’re always trying to stretch and look for more.
“Ultimately, it comes down to each player – are they applying themselves? Are they all into it? Are they treating themselves like an inter-county hurler at Nicky Rackard level, because all the rest of the counties are? I believe that they are but coping with that lifestyle, it’s important.
“We’ve nine weeks guaranteed left of the season and we want them to throw everything into it. The pitches will be getting a bit harder and they’ll be playing against different teams, and that’s to be looked forward to.”
LOUTH: Dan O’Neill; Adam Plunkett, Danny Morgan, Ben Goss-Kieran; Conal Shaw, Liam Molloy, Aaron McGuinness-Smith 0-1; Feidhelm Joyce, Ryan Walsh; Seán Kerrisk 0-1, Seaghan Conneely 0-1, Mark Gahan 0-2; Peter Fortune; Conor Murphy 0-3, Darren Geoghegan 0-7 (6f). Subs: Stephen Stafford for Walsh (23), Ronan Mulholland for Shaw (48), Gareth Hall for Joyce (58), Seán Hodgins for McGuinness-Smith (60), Jack Murray for Kerrisk (64).
MAYO: Bobby Douglas: James Lyons, Ger McManus, Conor Murray; David Kenny, Joe Mooney 0-1, Mark Phillips; John Cassidy, Daniel Huane 0-1; Seán Kenny, Joe McManus 1-2, Cormac Phillips 0-8 (7f, 1 65); Adrian Phillips 2-3, Eoin Delaney 2-2, Jason Coyne 0-1. Subs: Michael Farrell 0-2 for S Kenny (62), Luke Connor for Cassidy (64), Danny Hill for Mooney (69), Kealan Gallagher for Delaney (72).
REFEREE: Conor Daly (Kildare).
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