Louth 2-18 Wicklow 0-11

Updated: Thursday, 14 Jun 2007 15:51

Wicklow's James Stafford shields the ball from John O'Brien of Louth
Wicklow's James Stafford shields the ball from John O'Brien of Louth

Louth put together their most complete half of football for some time to finally see off Wicklow by 2-18 to 0-11 at Croke Park.

In the sides' third Leinster SFC meeting in 15 days, Eamonn McEneaney's men decisively took control in the second half with goals from JP Rooney and Mark Stanfield capping off a morale-boosting display.

Points from Tony Hannon and John Slattery edged Wicklow 0-05 to 0-03 ahead before Louth bounced back to take a 0-07 to 0-06 lead into the second half.

A trio of overs from Paddy Keenan nudged Louth four points clear before Rooney and Stanfield netted to further punish a tiring Wicklow side whose attentions now turn to the Tommy Murphy Cup.

Hoping to steer Wicklow to their first ever championship win at Croke Park, Mick O'Dwyer watched his players make a sluggish start with Louth nipping into a 0-03 to 0-00 lead.

Rooney (free), Aaron Hoey and Stanfield all raised early white flags before Wicklow could get a foothold in the game. Paddy Dalton fisted over Wicklow's opening point soon after and with eight minutes on the clock there was just the minimum between the sides, after a Tommy Gill effort.

Wicklow skipper Paul Earls then levelled the tie and confidence were soon spreading through the Garden county ranks when Hannon, who struck 0-05 in last week's drawn game, and Slattery gave O'Dwyer's men a two-point lead.

Nonetheless Louth, with captain Peter McGinnity an imposing figure at centre-back, had the better of the remainder of the half with Rooney, Hoey (0-02) and Stanfield cancelling out a score from John McGrath, who was a late inclusion in the Wicklow line-up.

Stanfield's injury-time point saw Louth in front at the break and the tide turned further in their favour on the restart when Keenan sent over three successive points for a 0-10 to 0-06 scoreline.

After another Stanfield score, Wicklow managed to cut the gap to three points with Hannon (free) and Earls both on target, but then came Rooney's goal.

The Naomh Martin clubman worked his way through the Wicklow defence in the 51st-minute and succeeded in sliding the ball beyond the reach of goalkeeper Billy Norman to put his side 1-11 to 0-08 in front.

Louth sensed the breakthrough had been made and the shackles were well and truly off after Stanfield had punched home their second goal.

Points followed from Hoey, Christy Grimes, Shane Lennon, John O'Brien and Darren Clarke as Louth ended Wicklow's Leinster and All-Ireland hopes, setting up for themselves a provincial quarter-final against Wexford at Parnell Park on 17 June.