Antrim bounced back from their desolating exit from the Ulster Championship at the hands of All-Ireland finalists Tyrone to dump 13-man Louth out of the qualifiers in Drogheda.
Bouncebackability is not a term widely used in the GAA, but it could be applied to this qualifier tie as both sides came into the game with something to prove on the back of one-sided provincial exits.
A pair of well-taken goals from Matthew Fitzpatrick on the 20th and 25th minute was the difference in the tie. Louth couldn’t recover from the hammer blows and finally came apart in the second period landing only four points and ending the game with 13 men.
The two counties' most notable recent collision was back in 2016 when they faced each other in the Alianz Football League Division 4 Final decider. That familiarity brewed tempers on the field in what was a cagey opening.
Antrim corner-forward Ryan Murray rose above the tension to engineer two fine points for himself, as the heavens opened Louth kicked three scores in a row, Declan Byrne with the lead point for Louth.
The home side seized on a poor Pádraig Nugent kick out to pounce for the opening goal of the game. Sam Mulroy teeing up Andy McDonnell for the easiest of tap ins at the back post.
Louth would then go a quarter of an hour scoreless, as Antrim took over with a 2-02 blitz. Matthew Fitzpatrick with both majors. Powerful direct running with matching finishes from the centre forward.
Declan Byrne did level the game after John Clutterbuck pulled another point back for Louth who showed resilience to weather that Antrim blitzkrieg.
However it was Murray who ended the half with a point to give the Saffrons a slender lead, 2-05 to 1-07. The fragility of each sides mental capacity fully illustrated in the opening period.
Murray and Fitzpatrick continued that rich vein of form in the second half to push the visitors further ahead. Points of the highest quality especially with slippery underfoot conditions.
Burns pulled a free back and Conall McKeever burrowed a point over but the game would hinge on Fitzpatrick’s second goal. Antrim managing the lead and Louth chasing that three point lead.
Louth would not manage that feat and lost their nerve as a result. Goalkeeper Fergal Sheekey and Declan Byrne saw red within minutes of each other as Louth’s promising season petered out.
Antrim’s Patrick McBride was composure personified, he kept the game beyond Louth with two points while pulling the strings when in possession.
The victory was the Ulster side's first win in the qualifiers since 2015 and they will deservedly take delight in the reaching second round draw on Monday morning.
Louth: Fergal Sheekey; Dan Corcoran, Fergal Donohoe, James Craven; Anthony Williams, Bevan Duffy (0-01), John Clutterbuck (0-01); Tommy Durnin (0-01), James Califf; Andy McDonnell(1-01 ), Declan Byrne (0-02), Conall McKeever (0-01); Ciaran Downey, Sam Mulroy, Ryan Burns (0-2, 0-02f).
Subs: Eoghan Duffy for McDonnell (h-t) Conor Early for Califf (48), Ronan Holcroft for Downey (49), Emmet Carolan (0-01) for Craven (56), Conor Grimes for Mulroy (58) Craig Lynch for J Clutterbuck (58)
Antrim: Padraig Nugent; Patrick McCormick (0-01), Ricky Johnston, Patrick Gallagher; Paddy McBride (0-03, 0-01f), Declan Lynch, Niall Delargy (0-01); Colum Duffin (0-02), Stephen Beatty; James McAuley, Matthew Fitzpatrick (2-01), Kevin Quinn; Ryan Murray (0-06, 0-01f), Michael McCarry, Eunan Walsh
Subs: Ryan McNulty for James McAuley (5), Conor Murray for McCarry (h-t), Ruairí Scott (0-02) for Beatty (49), Fintan Burke for K Quinn (64), James Smith for C Duffin (68), Patrick Branagan for N Delargy (72).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).