PETER Fitzpatrick will always remember this trip to Wexford Park, for many reasons.
It was a frantic, exhausting, yet exciting weekend for the Louth manager, but it would of all been for nothing, if he didn’t get the two results he wanted, the one off the field and more importantly the one on the field.
By 2pm, he had the one off the field as he was elected to the Dáil as a TD for the county. But before he could really celebrate, he had another role to perform, that of the Louth manager.
By 4pm, he could finally celebrate his double header as his Louth team remained undefeated in the Allianz League, sitting pretty at the top of Division Three. A promotion charge is certainly on the cards.
As the election count went into the early hours of Sunday morning and then restarted at 10.30am on the morning of the Louth game, people wondered whether Fitzpatrick would make the game.
But he was there, having travelled down that morning.
Post match, an elated and proud Fitzpatrick said that he was not only proud to represent his county as a TD, but also as the manager of the county team.
“I’ve been honoured that I will represent the County of Louth and East Meath as a TD. I will take that job very serious. Also I am manager of the Louth team and the way that the counts finished, Saturday night at around 3am, I wasn’t there today, but my wife represented me.”
Fitzpatrick will take up his role during the week but insisted it will not clash with his football duties.
“The most important thing is, I said to people in Louth that I would look after them. I will be taking up my position during the week.
“I said all along, I do the Louth job as a voluntary thing. It is my hobby and I honestly get a great kick out of it and I am lucky I get to do two jobs that I love. I am looking forward to it.”
Last week, when Louth scraped past Tipperary, Fitzpatrick slipped into politician mode calling it one of his best wins ever as a manager. It certainly wasn’t as good as the one that beat Kildare in the Championship in Navan, but this week, there was no spin required as Louth dominated and deserved their win, playing some of their best football to date this year.
“Let’s call a spade a spade, we came down to Wexford Park today and it was all down to the preparation.
“We asked the county board two weeks ago, we felt we had a great chance in the National League and we asked them could we come down for the weekend. We left Dundalk at 4pm, the whole panel went down, stayed overnight, were well prepared, well rested.
“You look at today and they looked real fresh and that was a good Wexford team out there and we won it in their own back yard and showed good grit in the final ten minutes.
“They are probably one of the best teams in the Division. I keep telling the lads that the next game is going to be the hardest game.
“All I hope is that we can keep the two things together.
“We used three substitutes today and it’s all about the whole panel. It’s a tremendous performance and caps off a wonderful weekend for me. I’m delighted.”
Rather than praise an individual for the win, Fitzpatrick was delighted with the performance of his team, who he thinks could top the achievements of last year’s squad.
“I said it from day one and I’m not one of these people looking for excuses. We lost three fantastic players, but these boys are fighting really hard for it. We had a meeting at 12.30pm in the hotel and we told them that we feel as though this is an even better panel than last year’s. Don’t get me wrong, we could lose the next game but this is going forward. We have people who want to play for their county and that is all we want.
“And they are giving us 100% and in fairness to the county board, no matter what we ask for, they are giving us.”
Louth now have two home games next, with Offaly and Limerick making the journey to the Gaelic Grounds. Two more wins could seal promotion for Louth if other results go their way, but Fitzpatrick is taking one step at the time.
“The way I look at it is, we have six points at the moment and the main thing is not to get relegated. We will regroup now on Tuesday and look at it again. Every game is going to be very important.
“If we can keep winning, we will get promotion and the most important thing now is not to slip up. We’ve been very lucky so far with injuries and we’ve put a good panel together.
“The whole thing is about keeping focus. I would rather play every Sunday. The way the National League is, I think over a two month period, the more games you get, the more momentum you get and it’s a pity we have a break next week.
“That’s the way it goes. The boys are back playing with their clubs next weekend. We’ve Offaly then Limerick and please God, we keep going.”
One of the main concerns on the day was the diagnosis of Ronan Carroll’s injury as the St Mary’s man hobbled off after lasting just five minutes. Thankfully, it was not a re-occurence of his back, but a dead leg that forced him to retire from the clash. Another early substitute was Declan Byrne, who was withdrawn after 30 minutes, despite a solid showing in full back against a skillful Ben Brosnan, but having been cautioned and ticked, Fitzpatrick said he had to do it incase he was sent off.
“Ronan had a dead leg and he put ice on it as a pre-caution. Declan Byrne was having a tremendous game for us, a tremendous first half but he got a yellow card and a tick.
“I just couldn’t take another chance and in fairness, I explained that to him when he was coming off.
“Declan was having a fantastic game and he’s playing very well at the moment, but it was a tactical decision and I think it worked out.
“Declan was on top of him, I was happy with him. The team had a busy weekend, but the team really focused on the game.”