Pete McGrath hopeful Louth youngsters can deliver
By Cian O’Connell
Despite a demanding stint sprinkled with defeats and unfortunate injury setbacks, Louth manager Pete McGrath is keeping the faith.
Louth face another tricky task in Thurles on Sunday against Tipperary in Division Two of the Allianz Football League, but McGrath believes his youthful panel are learning valuable lessons.
McGrath acknowledges that it is been a testing start to the year for Louth. “It has been, we have been unfortunate in regard to long term injuries,” McGrath says.
“Young Sam Mulroy broke an ankle in the first O'Byrne Cup match; Niall Conlon, who would have been in our full forward line also had to have an operation on his wrist; Jim McEnenaney our centre half forward had a shoulder operation a fortnight ago, he will miss the remainder of the League; John Bingham has an ongoing knee problem which will rule him out for the foreseeable future as well.
“So in a county with finite numbers if you lose so many potentially good players with long term injuries it is disappointing, but that is where we are.
“It is a tough League, Division Two. It is highly competitive, Louth have obviously come up through the Divisions for the last two years. It is a big step up and we have a young team.
“There has been quite a turnover in personnel in comparison to what was playing last year. We have a lot of young players in for the first time. So it is a learning curve, a difficult one, but we just have to get on with it.”
Four points separates Cavan in first place from Meath in seventh with Louth the only team still to register a point in Division Two.
“If you look at the table it is very congested, you could argue that every team apart from ourselves, Louth, still has a chance of promotion because you still have three matches left,” McGrath states.
“Some teams can still finish on a maximum of nine, Cavan are sitting on seven so it is highly competitive. You have a lot of good teams, it has been a very hard training ground for Louth this year, but again if the players are better for it and every game is stretching us, that is obvious.
“When you are playing games like that young players are going to learn very fast. Maybe that is not a bad thing.”
While Louth have suffered a string of losses so far McGrath remains optimistic that his panel can deliver gritty displays in the Leinster Championship this summer.
“There is no definite correlation between Championship and League,” McGrath remarks. “Teams like Dublin and Kerry if they want a good League campaign, they will have a good League campaign, they normally do.
“They have the resources and the players to have long Championship campaigns, we appreciate that. For lesser teams it can be a confidence thing.
"If you get a couple of wins, a solid League campaign it can set you up nicely, but on the other hand there is plenty of evidence of teams in recent years who struggled, relegated and who still went on to play a lot of good games in the Championship and to make a lot of progress.
“Obviously whatever situation we find ourselves at the end of the League we will take positives from the campaign and we will build on the experience the players gained. We will go forward to the Championship optimistic as I think any team or any manager has to do.”
Ultimately McGrath is busy preparing for what promises to be a revealing May 13 provincial encounter against Carlow at O’Moore Park.
“They are in Division Four and they are winning matches so you'd look at the situation and say which is better?” McGrath wonders.
“To be in a lower Division winning matches or being two Divisions up losing matches. What is better preparation for Championship? I'm not sure, I don't know, but time will tell. Certainly I would like to think that we would get some points on the board in our last three matches.
“I don't think it would do any of us any good going into the Championship without a win in the National League. So we will be trying our utmost in the last three matches to get points on the board.”