Brave Waterford pushed Louth all the way before eventually pushing the self destruct button as the Wee County ran out 1-12 to 1-08 victors in Drogheda today.

The Deise, one of the lowest ranked counties in the All-Ireland race, kept pace for long spells in an exciting back door battle.

But despite twice moving three points ahead early on they just couldn't hold their nerve and first missed a penalty before things got even worse.

Bizarrely, they had three players sent off in separate incidents late on as Louth closed out the game with a four point cushion.

It was interesting stuff and belied the notion that this would be poor fare played out between Ireland's lesser lights.

In fact, much of the football was brisk and pacey with Waterford showing the early form and moving 0-05 to 0-02 ahead by the 16th minute.

Stradbally club star Niall Curran was the Waterford hero with 0-02 of that early tally and 0-04 overall.

Louth thought they had stemmed the tide when JP Rooney finished off a great solo run after 18 minutes by dispatching to the net to level at 1-02 to 0-05.

But immediately Waterford went down the other end and Liam Ó Lionáin fisted to the net after his initial shot hit the crossbar.

Then after 29 minutes Hurney even wasted a glorious penalty chance, firing low at Shane McCoy who pulled him down for the kick.

It was a visible turning point and Waterford never quite regrouped.

At the other end Louth began to find their range and points from Clarke, 0-02, helped them into a 1-06 to 1-05 half-time lead.

Crucially, Louth never dropped the lead again as Waterford managed just one score from play after the break, a 60th minute Hurney effort.

Shane Lennon stretched Louth's lead after the restart and back-to-back points from Paddy Matthews put them 1-9 to 1-7 ahead after 49 minutes.

Late Louth scores from Clarke, Nicky McDonnell and David Devanny eventually sealed their passage but the real talking point was the red mist that descended late on.

Hurney was first to go for Waterford and then midfield duo Karl O'Keeffe and Andy Hubbard got their marching orders as Waterford caved in.

Louth: S McCoy; A Page, B Reilly, J Carr; S Gerard, B Keenan, C Sheridan; D Devanney (0-1), J Kermath; R Carroll (0-1), D Clarke (0-5; 2f, 1 45), P Matthews (0-2); T O'Brien, S Lennon (0-2), JP Rooney (1-0).

Subs: D Martin for O'Brien 50, N McDonnell (0-1) for Lennon 52

Waterford: T Wall; P Ogle, E Walsh, R Hennessy; A Heffernan, M Ahern, T Costelloe; A Hubbard (0-1), K O'Keeffe; S Cunningham, S Briggs, L Ó Lionáin (1-1); N Curran (0-4; 3f), G Hurney (0-1), S Walsh (0-1).

Subs: S Dempsey for Ogle h/t, J Ryan for Dempsey 65, P Hurney for Ó Lionáin 69.