Louth clinched top spot in the group with a 1-17 to 0-9 win over Longford yesterday afternoon in Drogheda.
The result ensures Aidan O’Rourke’s side edged out Meath, 1-13 to 0-15 winners against UCD today, for the semi-final place on offer in this group.
Louth got off to a dream start when Shane Lennon found the net in the 12th minute as they moved into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead.
James Califf showed good marksmanship in front of goal for the Wee County as he shot four points during the first-half.
An experimental Longford team kept in touch with Francis McGee and Donal McElligott on target but they were still trailing by 1-8 to 0-7 at the interval.
But Louth powered for the finishing line in the second-half with Andy McDonnell, who finished up with 0-5 to his name, in sparkling form while Darren Clarke and David Reid were others to raise white flags.
Louth lead by 1-13 to 0-7 in the 45th minute and by the final whistle they had 11 points to spare. They now face Dublin at the semi-final stage after completing a group campaign that also featured a victory over UCD and a draw against Meath.
Louth’s success ensured they staved off the challenge of Meath in Group A on scoring difference. The Royals were 1-13 to 0-15 victors over UCD this afternoon in Páirc Tailteann in Navan but the win for Mick O’Dowd’s side proved immaterial
UCD lead by 0-9 to 0-7 at half-time with Laois player Donie Kingston impressing but Meath fought back in the second-half with Damien Carroll finding the net.
The teams were level at 1-11 to 0-14 with five minutes remaining yet Brian Farrell helped steer Meath to a narrow victory.
Meath’s Brian Farrell and Rory O’Carroll of UCD. Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Dublin suffered their first defeat under Jim Gavin’s management against Wicklow in Parnell Park yesterday but still finished top of the group to qualify for next Sunday’s semi-final against Louth.
After victories over Carlow and DCU, Dublin entered this game in pole position and that was reflected in the experimental team that they selected for the game.
Dublin were defeated by 1-11 to 0-10 by Harry Murphy’s Wicklow side, who won their first match of the season after drawing with DCU and losing to Carlow in their previous O’Byrne Cup clashes.
Dublin made the early running with Paul Hudson landing early points to push them into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the 13th minute. But Wicklow recovered excellently with Brendan McCrea’s point in the 26th minute tying the match at 0-6 apiece.
And then Paul Earls smashed home a goal to give Wicklow a further boost. They built on that momentum to lead by 1-9 to 0-6 at the break with Austin O’Malley having chipped in with o-4 and Earls notching 1-2 during that period.
Wicklow suffered a setback in the second-half when Paul Cunningham was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card. But despite not scoring for 25 minutes and seeing Dublin trim the gap to 1-9 to 0-9, the 14 men of Wicklow held on with Anthony McLoughlin and Rory Finn hitting the late points that sealed their success.
In the other game in this group, DCU were 3-8 to 0-8 victors over Carlow in Dr Cullen Park. DCU lead by 2-5 to 0-5 at half-time with Monaghan’s Jack McCarron and Roscommon’s Donal Smith their goal-scorers while Wicklow’s Conor McGraynor raised the third green flag in the second-half.