Hurling and camogie

Fermanagh take on Louth in Lory Meagher Cup final at Croke Park

"We’re definitely confident, we’ve been going well in training and nobody is shying away from anything," says Fermanagh's Shea Curran. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

Lory Meagher Cup final: Fermanagh v Louth (today, Croke Park, 3.30pm, live on TG4 Youtube)

By Andy Watters

THIS game could have taken place a fortnight ago but both counties agreed to wait until today’s slot at Croke Park became available and, if previous meetings are anything to go by, they should serve up an engrossing final at ‘Headquarters’ this afternoon.

There’s barely the width of a hurley or a puc of a ball between the finalists. When they met in round one of the round-robin group stage at Darver and the Wee County were winning by four with four to go when Fermanagh mounted a stunning late comeback.

The Ernemen had led at half-time but Louth (managed by Paul McCormack, a Sam Maguire winner with the Armagh footballers and twice a Nicky Rackard Cup winner with the Orchard hurlers) sprang Darren Geoghegan and Niall Keenan from the bench and his side took control of the game. With the finishing line in sight, they looked to have the game in control but then Fermanagh hit back to grab their snatch-and-grab win at the death

Erne skipper John Duffy scored a goal and then Sean Corrigan tapped over the point that sealed a 3-10 to 1-15 win.

Opponents of tiered Championships should look away now because the nail-biting tussles continued throughout the group stage. In round two, Fermanagh hosted Cavan in Brewster Park and a draw was good enough for them to book their place in tomorrow’s decider and turn the final game – between Cavan and Louth – into a semi-final.

A draw would have done for Cavan and they almost managed it but this time it was 14-man Louth who came up with the 11th-hour heroics and Darren Geoghegan’s free earned the Wee County their slot in today’s Croke Park decider.

The final is a thrilling end to what was a disappointing League season for both counties. Louth, relegated from the Nicky Rackard Cup tier last season, finished bottom of Division 3A after losing all five games while opponents Fermanagh managed a single win (against Leitrim) in 3B.

“Preparations have been good, we’re going well in training and hopefully we’ll show that in the final,” said Fermanagh forward Shea Curran.

“When you get to a final, nobody ever really runs away with it. We went to Darver for the first game after the lockdown and we gave each other a good going over but I’d say a lot has changed on both teams since then. We’ve got a couple more games under our belt so you’d like to think we’re a bit sharper and more alert than we were the first day out. Please God, we’ll get over the line again.”

Fermanagh’s only previous win in the Lory Meagher came in 2015 and Louth won this competition the following year (also their sole success). With little to choose between the sides, the result could hinge on which group of players settles quickest on the big stage.

“Our manager Joe Baldwin always says: ‘You play the game, not the occasion’ and at the end of the day it’s another game and it’s one we all want to go out and win,” Curran explained.

“You have to take it as it comes and not let the big day spoil your performance. We’re all grounded and we have boys who have played in Croke Park before.

“We’re definitely confident, we’ve been going well in training and nobody is shying away from anything. Anything we’re asked to do we’re doing and we’re going into each other right and hard in the in-house games! So we’re looking forward to it: What more could you ask for in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of winter?”

Paths to the final

Group stage

Round 1: Louth 1-15 Fermanagh 3-10 at Darver

Round 2: Fermanagh 0-16 Cavan 1-13 at Brewster Park

Round 3: Cavan 0-16 Louth 1-14 at Kingspan Breffni

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Hurling and camogie