The finest game of the Championship season so far produced the biggest surprise with Louth beating Kildare 1-22 to 1-16.
The televised tie attracted a paltry 7,125 paying customers to Navan’s Pairc Tailteann, but those who stayed away were the losers.
Louth have a good record against Kildare, but few — many of their own supporters included — expected them to enhance it.
The Reds had only a reasonable Division Three league campaign, and stuttered before finding a way past Longford in the opening round of this competition.
Over a fast and furious 70 minutes that had much of what is good about today’s game, rookie manager, Peter Fitzpatrick’s team answered every call.
They were headed just once — midway through the opening half — but bounced back immediately and at the interval were five points to the good, 0-14 to 1-6.
It was the same in the second-half, Kildare twice getting to within two points and each time looking good to take charge.
Louth, however, responded each time, Ray Finnegan’s goal checking the first run, before a succession of well-taken scores opened up a seven-point lead after sharpshooter, Johnny Doyle had contributed most to Kildare making it 1-17 to 1-15.
Louth were on top in midfield, Paddy Keenan and Brian White out-catching the Kildare pair and losing none of their control after Kieran McGeeney had sent in All-Star, Dermot Earley.
And in contributing handsomely to an impressive tally, 1-13 of which came from play, the forwards made it a most uncomfortable evening for the Kildare backs.
The full-forward line, in particular, sparkled. Colm Judge, Shane Lennon and JP Rooney winning lots of possession and turning nearly every chance into a score. This is reflected in the side’s wide tally — just one in the second-half and four over the 70 minutes.
It’s exactly 50 years since Louth was last represented in a Leinster final. In attempting to bridge the gap, today’s side will have Westmeath to contend with in three weeks time.
l A LAST minute Colm Cooper point from a free gave Kerry a draw in the thrilling Munster SFC semi-final with Cork at Killarney.
In this repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final, the sides were level four times. Colm O’Neill seemed to have won it for Cork when he pointed in the 69th minute, but there was still time for Cooper to make it 0-15 to 0-15 after he’d been fouled 35 yards from goal.