THE gods mercilessly mocked Louth in last year's Leinster football final and had another chuckle at their expense in Newbridge yesterday as Kildare beat them by 3-9 to 2-9.
This time, there was no controversy over the circumstances but they were no less dramatic as Kildare poached two stoppage-time goals.
Louth completed their scoring as early as the 42nd minute but, with Kildare getting a poor return on their dominance of possession throughout the second half, it looked as if the visitors' yield of 2-9 would be enough. Derek Maguire scored the Weemen's goals in the 11th and 35th minutes.
Kildare, who trailed by seven points with 25 minutes remaining, pared four off the deficit and, as the game ticked into stoppage time, they launched one of their most cohesive attacks of the day which ended with Emmett Bolton being fouled in the Louth square.
Ronan Sweeney, an influential figure after coming on for the second half, stroked the penalty to the net to bring Kildare level for the first time since the seventh minute. Extra-time looked a certainty but Kildare won the kick-out and launched a drive for the winner, which resulted in Keith Cribben kicking their third goal.
"No complaints. Kildare hit us for two goals and we have to deal with that," said Louth manager, Peter Fitzpatrick. "It's disappointing because overall I thought we played very well. We had plenty of chances to kill off the game in the second half but didn't take them and with Kildare coming back at us all the time, there was always a danger we would get caught,"
Wasted opportunities were also high up the agenda on Kieran McGeeney's post-match reflections. "We missed enough chances to win three games in the second half. Our decision-making up front was very poor, as was our kicking," he said. "We're in Casement Park next weekend and that's where the real tests begin. They'll (Antrim) be out for revenge after losing to us last summer so we'll have to be ready."