Stephen Fitzpatrick hails Keenan and team for their never say die spirit

ONE man who certainly knew the significance of last weekend more than any other player was Stephen Fitzpatrick.

ONE man who certainly knew the significance of last weekend more than any other player was Stephen Fitzpatrick.

As Peter’s son, Stephen was on the campaign trail with his father in the run up to the election. On Saturday, Stephen along with the rest of the players departed for Wexford to spend the night in a hotel before the game.

His father had to stay behind, as he went to the count centre at DkIT, before he met up with the team the following morning.

Despite being away from the family, Stephen was constantly updated with proceedings on what was a long night of political reform in the county.

The next day though, Peter was elected, but before they could celebrate, Stephen and co had to play their part on the field, as they kept Louth on track for promotion to Division Two.

Speaking after the game, Stephen said of the double result: “You couldn’t ask for any more.”

He added: “I’m not going to deny. It was a long night now. They stayed up till one or so and were counting first thing Sunday morning, it was a long day. But we got two results and we couldn’t ask for any more.”

Coming into the election, people asked questions about Peter’s commitment to the Louth job, if he was elected, but Stephen said he’s totally focused on the manager’s job and that politics won’t distract him.

“He’s very focused. He was on the phone to us all Saturday night, but he has a great backroom staff there too. They sat us down last night, named the team and Peter came down this morning and we went through it at 11am so we were well focused.”

In the first 15 minutes, Louth surged forward at will against Wexford, but could not make it count where it mattered, on the scoreboard, something Stephen acknowledged.

“These things happen. Everything is not going to go your way all the time. We hit the post a few times. Andy McDonnell was fierce unlucky (to hit the crossbar), Shane Lennon also, the ‘keeper pulled a few good saves out.

“But the boys produced in the second half and got the scoreboard ticking and we kept going.”

It really was a team performance by Louth, but Stephen singled out skipper Paddy Keenan and others for being able to pull the victory out of the hat.

“That’s Paddy Keenan for you. He does not have an All-Star for nothing.

“The two teams were unbeaten in the league and it was very important to get a good start. We came out flying, but they came back at us. We knew they were going to come back at us, but the team performance and especially Paddy Keenan in the middle and Sean Connor in goals was brilliant. We held it together in the end.

“When you have big leaders in there like Paddy Keenan and Mark Brennan, who had a great game, playing the ball, holding the ball up. Derek Crilly too, coming back to help.

“We have big players there that are good for big games and take the pressure off us in defence.”

At the start of the second half, Fitzpatrick and the rest of the defence were under pressure as it was Wexford who took the game to them, but it was Louth’s determination that got them over the finishing line.

“They came back very strong and took the lead and the crowd really got behind them, but this team has great spirit as you seen last week.

“We’re building on last year’s success if you can call it that and we are going stronger and stronger but we want a game next week, not two weeks. We want to keep going and going.”

Promotion is in Louth’s own hands at the moment, with Offaly coming up and then Limerick, which Fitzpatrick knows will be two tough games.

“We will definitely be favourites because we are unbeaten so far.

“We beat Offaly last year, but they will be out for blood this time so it will be no easy game.

“The same with Limerick coming up now and with (John) Galvin in midfield, it will be a tough two games, but if we can get over them, it will be looking very good.”

gary@dundalkdemocrat.ie