National Hurling League:
Monaghan 2-12 2-9 Louth
While 2017 has been generous to their football colleagues, the year has not started so well for the Louth hurlers as they lost for the fourth consecutive league game to make relegation to the bottom tier that bit likelier.
To make matters worse, it was another narrow loss to Monaghan who defeated them by two-points last Sunday in Darver with the only difference in Iniskeen this time round being the margin of defeat as Trevor Hilliard’s men prevailed 2-12 to 2-9.
Louth’s joint-managers Ken McKenna and Phillip O’Brien made two changes from last week’s loss with Mick Lyons and arch-marksman Liam Dwan returning to the starting XV at the expense of the injured Shane Callan and Gavin Kerrigan, who did make an appearance from the bench.
The Farneymen were looking for their fourth consecutive win and featured Conor Boyle and Ronan Curran, two of those involved in their u21 championship defeat to the Reds last July, from the start while DkIT Trench Cup winning brothers Colm and Donal Meegan also started at right-half back and left-corner forward respectively, and contributed a combined total of four-points.
Monaghan, much like last weekend, started the brighter, despite Louth taking an early lead, and scores from ‘keeper Hugh Byrne, who also was on target in the last meeting of the teams, Fergal Rafter, Colm Meegan and a goal from Luke McKenna had the home side leading 1-4 to one-point after 17 minutes.
Gerard Smyth, Liam Dwan and Seaghan Connelly then pointed for Louth to narrow the home side’s lead to the minimum but, as in sync with the trend of the game, Monaghan hit back with another glut of scores as Rafter brought his day’s tally to three with another pair of points.
That had the host’s leading 1-6 to 0-4, however, Louth were to draw level prior to the change of ends as Dwan and Diarmuid Murphy registered points before Naomh Moninne’s Murphy levelled affairs on the stroke of half-time with the Reds’ first major.
Tied at the break, having come back from five in arears, the visitors would have been confident of putting up a good showing in the second-half, and so they did but unfortunately, they just fell short.
A six-minute spell between the 36th and 42nd minutes all but ended the contest somewhat prematurely. A Tadhg Campbell goal, his second goal against the Reds in as many outings, followed by Donal Meegan’s free and the dismissal of Louth corner-back Stephen Kettle for a second bookable offence handed the Reds an uphill, almost impossible, task for the remainder of the outing.
A further point from the aforementioned Meegan and another by substitute Nathan Adair saw the Farneymen extend their lead to six before a quick-fire rush from Louth saw Connelly point and Davy Mahony goal either with Rafter responding for Monaghan to put three in it with nine minutes to play, 2-11 to 2-8.
It was a frenetic final period, although only two-points were scored, as the teams traded scores through Colm Meegan and Dwan. Dwan’s point from a free a minute into stoppage time was Louth’s final hurrah as they fall to another defeat.
The simple fact that the Reds’ have went under to Monaghan, the league leaders, by an aggregate total of five-points over the two matches highlights their ability to compete at this grade, although, without a win in four, their tenure in the second from bottom tier looks set to end barring a miracle as a trip to Tyrone awaits the men from the Wee County next.
Monaghan: Hugh Byrne (0-1, free); Pádraig Gartland, Patrick Flanagan, Brian Flanagan; Colm Meegan (0-2), Peter Treanor, Martin Murphy; Bernard Connor, Conor Boyle; Fergal Rafter (0-5), Ronan Curran, Luke McKenna (1-0); Tadhg Campbell (1-1), Seán Leonard, Donal Meegan (0-2, one free)
Subs: Nathan Adair (0-1) for Curran (48), Patrick Bermingham for Connor (54), PJ Boyle for Leonard (65), Stephen Forde for McKenna (69),
Louth: Stephen Hackett; Stephen Kettle, Mick Lyons, Conor Kerrigan; Andrew McCrave, Roger Maher, Ricky McKeown; Donal Ryan, Paddy McCormack; Gerard Smyth (0-1), Seaghan Connelly (0-2), Paddy Lynch; Diarmuid Murphy (1-2, one free), Liam Dwan (0-4, two frees), Michael Ryan
Subs: Conor Matthews for Kerrigan (28), Davy Mahony (1-0) for Michael Ryan (34), Gavin Kerrigan for Smyth (59)
Red Card: Stephen Kettle (47)
Referee: Alfie Devine (Westmeath)
Image: Northern Standard