Report by Dermot Woods
The meeting of Louth and Wicklow  at Stabannon on Sunday will bring back memories of some titanic clashes between the counties over a five year period between 2008/12. Having lost their Intermediate status in 2007 Louth took part in the Junior Championship the following season where Wicklow provided the opposition in the provincial decider. After a memorable final it was the Garden county who emerged victorious on a 5-08 to 0-16 scoreline. Despite playing some excellent football it was the concession of some soft goals which proved a major factor  in Louth’s downfall
Twelve months later they again met in the final with Louth coming out on top on  a 2-08 to 2-06 scorliene in Athy following a 1-06 to 2-03 draw on the first day in Carlow.
Louth midfieder Orlaith Kirk took the player of the match award in both the drawn game and the replay
In  2010 they again met in the provincial final for a third successive season with Wicklow recording a comfortable 2-08 to 0-07 win over a dissapointing Louth
But the real drama came as the counties came face to face in the All-Ireland Series. The game which took place just seven days after the Leinster Final,  these two teams  were involved in a fantastic game of football in Stabannonn in which the home side side recorded a narrow one point victory by 4-06 to 0-17.
The  Wee County missed oy on a chance  to clinch a place in the semi-final’s when they lost to Wexford 3-9 to 1-8
However being on equal points with Wexford and Wicklow resulted in a play-off for an All-Ireland semi-final place which saw Louth once again pitted against Wicklow, with the winners  meeting Derry in the semi-final.
In a game played in Hollywood the home side side got off to a dream start hitting four goals inside the first four minutes.
But Louth battled to get a foothold in the game with some fine points of their own. It looked bleak with the clock showing just ten minutes left and Wicklow holding a commanding 6-02  to 0-10 lead. A Kate Flood point gave the Reds a glimmer of hope but two goals from AnnMarie Murphy sparked the Louth comeback. Seizing the initiative ,they piled on the pressure and as Wicklow prayed for the final whistle, the Louth management of Gabriel Clarke, Dermot  Agnew, Pat Mackin, Ann Fedigan and Alo McGrath made a telling change as Susan Byrne returned to action.
The St.Kevins star repayed their faith  as she won possession some thirty metres from goal and went on a surging run which took her past three defenders and planted the ball firmly in the Wicklow net, sparking scenes of wild jubilitation among the huge Louth support and utter disbelief among the home side and their supporters. The team’s that on that day were;
Louth; Caoimhe Breen, AnnMarie Lynch, Sandra Lynch 0-1, Aine McGee, Patricia Marmion, Grace Lynch, Siobhain McDonald, Roseanna Heaney, Grace Rogers, Susan Byrne 1-02, Kate Flood, 0-02, Catherine McGee 0-02, Maria Reid 0-02, Annmarie Murphy 2-03,Laura O’Neill.
Wicklow; Emer Miley, Ciatriona Byrne, Janet Miley, Aoife Heffernan, Lorna Fusciardi, Sarah Miley, Niamh Kelly,Catriona McKeon, Jackie Kinch,  Caoilfhionn Deeney 3-01, Monica Lynch, Niamh Carroll 1-00, Sinead Boland 0-01, Lucy Mulhall1-00, Annmarie Doran, Aisling OhAanaidh 1-00, Referee, Martin Seery (Westmeath)
Having got the the better of Derry, Louth lost out to Limerick in the All-Ireland final final.
After a poor League campaign in 2011, Louth now under the management of John Hanratty and Brendan Wynne fought their way through to the All-Ireland semi-final. In a one sided contest Wicklow ran out easy winners against an injury hit Louth in Blancherdstown
With both teams through to the League semi-finals, Sunday’s game does’nt have the same importance as some of the earlier meetings both both teams will be keen to maintain their good form and finish top of the table. Wicklow have been most impressive and boast a 100% record after their six outings while Louth have won five out of six of their games. Mick O’Rourke who was in charge of Wicklow in some of those meetings at the start of the decade  is back in a second spell in charge of the Garden County, he has a nice mix of experience and youth to call on.
Jackie Kinch, Sarah Hogan and Laura Fuscardi were part of their All-Ireland winning team in 2011 while while Laura Hogan, Emily Mullhall,
Amy Murphy and goalie Kim Connors have all been in great form this season
Louth with a new a management team in place led by experienced Channrock  native Michael McKeown have chalked up some notable wins, their only defeat coming  at the hands of  Fermanagh. He has introduced a number of new players with the likes of Deirbhile Osborne, Rachel Kane, and last year’s minor players Aoife Russell and Ceire Nolan being particulary impressive while the return of influentail midfieder  Rebecca  Carr will increase Louth’s options. They have some talented players up front like Kate Flood, Paula Murray  and excitng newcomer Lauren Boyle who will cause problems for any defence
With both teams through to the Div 4 semi-finals, Sunday’s game does’nt have the same importance as some of the earlier meetings but both sides  will be keen to maintain their good form and finish top of the table.  A fascinating and exciting game lies in store  on Easter Sunday.
In what is a busy weekend for the Ladies game in Louth, the U16s get their Championship campaign under way when they host Laois on Saturday in Dowdallshill  while the Minor team take on Meath in the Leinster semi-final on Monday in Knockbridge.
All three games have 2oc starting time