With players bereft of confidence, management seemingly unable to find solutions to an alarming slide and supporters losing faith match-by-match, these are increasingly grim days for Kildare football.

Seldom have the Lilywhites put such a miserable sequence of below-par performances together as they have over the last four games and despite results elsewhere giving them continued hope of a Houdini act, it would take a brave person to back them to escape the drop to Division 3 of the league and Tailteann Cup football.

It is hard to fathom the drop-off in performance levels since last May when Louth were humbled in a sixteen-point hammering in Tullamore. For sure, Mickey Harte has improved the Wee County since that drubbing but Kildare are hurtling in the opposite direction.

Without being brilliant, Louth created a couple of well-taken goals, which proved crucial, and were better organized defensively. While they protected the D with a ring of five or six players, forcing errors and turnovers, their opponents again looked defensively naive.

Ryan surprisingly left Kevin Flynn, arguably the most consistent performer of the last few years, out of the starting fifteen but had to re-instate the Celbridge man minutes before throw-in when Ryan Houlihan aggravated the hamstring injury that saw him miss the Derry game.

Jimmy Hyland was also hamstrung and didn’t make the match-day 26, joining Darragh Malone, Tony Archbold and Alex Beirne in sick-bay.

That unplanned defensive re-arrangement didn’t help Kildare but offers little excuse for an opening quarter in which Louth were clearly the better team, a superiority they translated onto the scoreboard after a trio of early wides.

Niall Sharkey opened their account with a point on the loop and when Paddy McDermott dropped Mark Donnellan’s kick-out in the eighth minute, Sam Mulroy put Tommy Durnin through to finish to the net.

Kildare took ten minutes to manage a kick at the posts, Darragh Kirwan floating over a fine score from 35 metres. A Neil Flynn free was sandwiched between two from Mulroy before two scores in a minute from the Maynooth man and Paddy Woodgate in the 16th and 17th minutes suggested the Lilywhites were settling into it.

Ciaran Downey re-instated Louth’s three-point advantage at 1-4 to 0-4 before eleven barren minutes saw Kildare spurn a number of opportunities to make inroads. But another spurt of two in a minute from Woodgate (free) and Ben McCormack brought the gap down to a single point.

Durnin and Jack Sargent exchanged points before a mark from Daire McConnon sent Louth two clear on 35 minutes.

Kildare would probably have been happy to go into the break at that point, but the counter-attacking Louth side grabbed a crucial second goal in injury time when Liam Jackson put Conor Grimes in for a neat finish to Donnellan’s right. That made it 2-6 to 0-7 at half-time.

Kevin Feely was another injury casualty and didn’t reappear but early scores from Kirwan and Woodgate suggested all was not lost and in fairness Kildare didn’t lack for effort in the second half.

Their basic skills let them down though time and again. Louth could afford to sit back and remain compact, and Kildare regularly ran into brick walls, over-carried, or saw simple passes with hand or foot go astray. All signs of a lack of confidence.

After Ryan Burns pushed Louth four clear in the 39th minute with a fine effort off the outside of the boot, the quality of the game, never particularly high, deteriorated further with neither side troubling the scoreboard operator except for a Flynn free over the next sixteen minutes as Kildare shot four excruciating wides.

Those misses and Kildare’s unforced errors allowed Louth to keep the wolf from the door comfortably enough, outscoring Kildare four to two from the 57th minute onwards, with the visitors never really threatening to find the goal that has eluded them in league football for over a year now.

A mark from Daire McConnon and a lovely score from Durnin made it 2-9 to 0-10 before substitute Barry Coffey and the inconsistent Daniel Flynn made it a one-score game with six minutes left. But Louth registered the last two fisted scores from substitutes Craig Lennon and Bevan Duffy to raucous applause from home supporters in a capacity 2,500 crowd.

With Limerick gaining confidence and a lifeline from a draw with Meath and Kildare looking mentally shot, Ryan and his team face a huge task to lift things over the next two weeks.

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, Shea Ryan, Jack Sargent 0-1; David Hyland, Kevin Flynn, Paddy McDermott; Kevin Feely, Kevin O’Callaghan; Eoin Doyle, Ben McCormack 0-1, Neil Flynn 0-3 (2fs), Paddy Woodgate 0-3 (2fs), Daniel Flynn 0-1, Darragh Kirwan 0-2.

Subs: Aaron Masterson for Feely HT, Mike Joyce for McDermott HT, Cein McMonagle for McCormack 47, Jack Robinson for Kirwan 54, Barry Coffey 0-1 for N Flynn 62.

LOUTH: James Califf; Niall Sharkey 0-1, Peter Lynch, Donal McKenny; Leonard Grey, Ciaran Murphy, Ryan Burns; Conor Earley, Conor Grimes 1-0; Liam Jackson, Ciaran Downey 0-1, Tommy Durnin 1-2; Conal McKeever; Sam Mulroy 0-2 (2fs), Daire McConnon 0-2 (1f 1m).

Subs: Bevan Duffy 0-1 for Grimes (temp 6-13), Craig Lennon 0-1 for Mulroy 28, Craig Lennon 0-1 for Mulroy, Conal McCaul for Burns 57, Duffy for Jackson 61, Jay Hughes for McConnon 67.

Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin). 

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