Louth hurlers hoping to end rollercoaster season on a high
By John Harrington
Liam Molloy hopes the Louth hurlers can end 2020 on a high by beating Fermanagh in Saturday’s Lory Meagher Cup Final after what he describes as a rollercoaster of a year.
The Wee County were relegated from Division 3A of the Allianz Hurling League after losing all five of their matches, but Molloy believes it’s a testament to the unity of the panel that they all regrouped after lockdown determined to have a real cut off the Lory Meagher Cup.
“Everyone stayed the course,” said Molloy.
“But that was definitely one of lowest points of my hurling career, losing to Monaghan in the final round of the league. On the day they were definitely the better team but we just felt we didn't give a good account of ourselves.
“We were very competitive in all our games, and in just the last five minutes of matches we lacked the confidence to close it out.
“We were actually leading against Donegal and they got a last minute goal and they went on to win the Nickey Rackard.
“We had just one training session after the League before lockdown and was frustrating we couldn't put things right straight away.
“There was a little bit of doubting ourselves as players because we didn't perform but it was straight into the club championship which is very competitive and there was no holding back.
“Once you knew the county was coming back, boys were really putting their hands up in the club championship.
“It just added to the competitiveness of the squad. You knew lads were bought back in because they had a good club championship.”
Molloy credits team manager and former Armagh county footballer and hurler, Paul McCormack, for ensuring enthusiasm levels have remained high in the panel despite an at times difficult year.
“He's been great,” says Molloy. “Even at this time of the year, training in November and after winning a county championship you might want to just go into a gym and hibernate, but he's kept training fresh, new, and different.
“We're going to different grounds around the county just to change things up. We went to the ball wall one night. Just doing different things to keep things fresh.
“The training itself is different every night. It's competitive, it's fun. It's not a slog this time of year which is good. Paul and the management have given us great training and they've really put things in place for players. Even just at the start of the year, the pre-season work we did was savage.
“We came bouncing into the League. I know we didn't get the results, but we were probably the fittest we've ever been coming into the League and that was down to them.
“Just whatever we've needed they really have our backs.”
Louth last won the Lory Meagher Cup back in 2016 when they defeated Sligo in the Final.
Since then, Sligo have won both the Lory Meagher and Nickey Rackard Cups in quick succession and competed in the Christy Ring Cup this year.
Gordon believes it’s an example that Louth hurling can aspire to emulate.
“I missed the first game against Sligo last season when they went on to win the Nickey Rackard,” he says.
“We would have played them U-21s and all that, and to just see the improvements and the jump that they've made it does give us motivation.
“In 2016 they were 12 points up at half-time and Louth managed to beat them. I'm not sure why we haven't kicked on, but we haven't realised our potential.
“Paul and management have really started to push us now and as players it's about getting that belief back and knowing we can compete at a stronger level.
“You see the standard of the young players coming through, even in our own club, boys putting their hand up, boys wanting to play hurling. That comes from seeing Louth do well, Louth playing in Croke Park.
“So there is a knock-on effect. I was watching the boys playing in 2016 and thinking this is class, this is where I want to be. It does start like that.
“Peter Fitzpatrick and the Louth county board are doing great work with the Louth hurlers by putting systems in place at underage for them to really build into the senior squad.”
Molloy is all to aware that it will require a big performance to beat Fermanagh on Saturday because the Erne-siders defeated Louth by a point in the round-robin phase.
“The first day they beat us in our home venue they brought a lot of bite,” he says.
“They really worked hard. It's probably a cliche, but they do work as a team. Everyone knows what everyone's about, everyone knows where everyone is.
“It's a big opportunity for us to play in a Final and play in Croke Park, so we're just looking forward to it and hoping for a big performance.”