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Louth hurler Shane Callan.

Louth hurler Shane Callan.

Callan hoping for Croke Park glory

By Cian O’Connell

In the past 11 years Louth hurlers have become familiar with Croke Park.  The only problem is in that spell Louth suffered four Nicky Rackard Cup final defeats at the Jones' Road venue.

Now competing in the Lory Meagher Cup Shane Callan admits all those hard luck stories will act as ‘massive motivation’.  The current Louth panel is well stocked with inter-county experience.  “There’s a few of us who’ve played all four, a few of us have played two and there’s a few guys who haven’t had the exposure," Callan said.

“But we are hoping that they have freshness and they mightn’t have as much nerves as the rest of us. You can’t be playing the occasion more than the match; I think you have to take Croke Park out of it, especially for lads like us who aren’t used to playing in it week-in, week-out.

“Just take it as any other game and use the motivation of previous defeats; especially 08 when Sligo beat us. We’ll use that as a big one over the next few days and hopefully it’ll push us over the line.”

Reaching GAA headquarters hasn’t been a concern, but attaining silverware is an issue Louth want to rectify according to Callan.  “Unfortunately, yeah, I played four and the record reads four defeats, four matches and four defeats,” Callan reflects.

“I’m there from ’05 so I played in the first one and hopefully this time around.  We played Sligo in 2008 and they gave us a good beating that day so we are looking for some sort of revenge.

“In 2005 it was the first against London, the first ever Rackard final. It was played here. It was before Galway-Kilkenny, the famous one. It was a brilliant match that day,” Callan recalls about the afternoon Niall Healy registered a daring and dramatic hat-trick for the Tribesmen.

Would a successful trip on Saturday help cleanse Louth’s previous defeats in the capital from the system?  “I don’t know would it erase it, but it would kind of put the Croke Park hoodoo to bed for us,” Callan replies.

“I think it will rejuvenate Louth hurling and it’ll really help push us on. Obviously we are used to Rackard as a higher level than the Lory Meagher, but for years I listened to people say to me maybe you have to go down to get back up and push it.

“I always was against that, but obviously you have no choice when you get relegated, you have to go down.

“Maybe we’ve hit rock bottom, but if we can get over the line on Saturday you never know, the sky is the limit. You have to get back up to Rackard hurling and then obviously on again, you have to keep looking up.”

Callan is adamant that Sligo will provide Louth with a seriously tough test in the decider.  “We beat them in the first round of the Championship. I know we've won our four games and it probably makes us slight favourites.

“But when we beat Sligo they had only 14 men for the majority of the men. Arguably they were the better team. They dominated for long periods and couldn't score.

"They were a point up on us with seven or eight minutes to go, we managed to rattled four or five points away and get over the line. I expect it to be tight, I would love to say Louth will just go out and win well, but Sligo have the experience of last year and they will obviously be drawing on that the same as we will obviously draw on previous experiences.”

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