Louth threw the Division 3A NHL promotion race wide open at Darver on Sunday, when edging out Tyrone in a keenly-contested encounter.
A raft of suspensions arising from the Warwickshire game forced manager Kevin Ryan’s hand somewhat for this round four fixture, but his dwindling squad produced another gutsy display that narrowly fell short as Louth joined Tyrone, Monaghan and Fingal in second place on four points with one round of fixtures remaining.
Fortunes fluctuated throughout the afternoon as both teams took it in turn to produce scoring bursts but, when it mattered most, it was Andrew Mackin’s second half major that left a defiant Tyrone unit with too much to do as they slumped to a disappointing three point reversal.
The 1-11 contribution of Damian Casey illustrating the leading role the Dungannon ace played as the visitors came close to cementing their place in the Division 3A final against Roscommon.
Tyrone started sprightly enough with Casey, Gerard Gilmore and Aidan Kelly harvesting points to compliment Gilmore’s goal, but even then the tone had been set.
With Ronan Byrne, Shane Callan, Darren O’Hanrahan and the industrious Nigel Stanley forming an effective midfield diamond Louth were able to muster a response.
Liam Dwan, Gerard Smith and Callan all provided points during that initial jousting period for a 1-4 to 0-3 deficit before the hosts registered three on the bounce as the match remained delicately poised.
Stanley’s running was causing problems and Dwan was on target with a few frees to punish a number of misdemeanours against the Galmoy clubman.
The introductions of Seaghan Connolly and Brian Carter offering Louth a more solid shape as they turned the screw.
Casey knocked over a free but suddenly Gilmore, Conor Grogan and Ciaran McNulty were struggling to create the same space and, when Dwan crashed the sliothar to the net Louth enjoyed a 1-6 to 1-5 lead.
Sean Og Grogan levelled the argument and, while Casey planted two more super points, Louth were in the ascendancy as they established a 1-11 to 1-8 interval lead.
Smith, Diarmuid Murphy and Callan joined Dwan on the scoring returns as the Leinster men manufactured five of the last six points of the half.
Casey and Dwan traded scores on the restart before man of the match Stanley stretched the lead out to four points, 1-13 to 1-9.
Tyrone though showed no signs of conceding and with Justin Kelly and Casey rising to the occasion they produced another scoring burst.
Kelly supplied the opening score of a four point salvo as the visitors restored parity by the 14th minute. Gilmore followed suit and, after Casey split the posts from play, he floated over a 65 for a 1-13 to 1-13 stalemate.
The momentum shifted again when Mackin plundered a Louth goal following excellent work from Stanley and, from there to the finish, it was nip and tuck between two teams battling to end any lingering relegation prospects.
Casey swapped scores with Dwan and Murphy before he smashed home a goal to close the gap to one, 2-16 to 2-15.
Unfortunately, Tyrone couldn’t get any closer as Dwan brought his tally to 1-7, with Smith and Callan adding points to complete a narrow but deserving win for Dee McCarthy’s men.
Tyrone travel to Roscommon in round five where a win could see them through to the league final. Fingal meet Louth and Monaghan host struggling Warwickshire but with any one of four capable of joining the Rossies in the title shoot out, it really is all to play for next Sunday.
Louth: James Connolly, Conor Matthews, John Carter, Brian Minogue, Mike Lyons, Ronan Byrne, Andrew McCrave, Shane Callan, Darren O’Hanrahan, Gerard Smith, Nigel Stanley, Andrew Mackin, Diarmuid Murphy, Liam Dwan, Gary O’Brien. Subs – Seaghan Connolly for O’Brien, Brian Carter for Minogue
Scorers: Liam Dwan 1-7, Shane Callan 0-4, Gerard Smith 0-4, Andrew Mackin 1-0, Nigel Stanley 0-2, Diarmuid Murphy 0-2
Tyrone: John Devlin, Conor McNally, Justin Kelly, Liam Armstrong, Sean Muldoon, Tiernan Morgan, Dean Rafferty, Aidan Kelly, Chris Cross, Ciaran McNulty, Damian Casey, Conor Grogan, Peadar Daly, Sean Og Grogan, Gerard Gilmore. Subs – Ryan McKernan for Rafferty, Eoghan O’Sullivan for Daly
Scorers: Damian Casey 1-11, Gerard Gilmore 1-2, Sean Og Grogan 0-1, Aidan Kelly 0-1, Justin Kelly 0-1
Referee: David Hughes, Carlow