LOUTH Minor boss Thomas McNamee woke up on Sunday morning with a nice headache as he now has to prepare for a Minor Championship semi-final with Meath at the end of June.
However, he will have to thread carefully as over the next month, the majority of his minor stars will be involved with a mental battle as they undertake the Leaving Certificate exams, meaning training will have to be curtailed over the next month.
For McNamee though, it’s a nice headache for him as the other option would have been reflecting on a Laois win and a Louth exit from the competition.
The minor’s 3-6 to 1-6 win over Laois on Saturday in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise was a major stepping stone for Louth, who have been starved of success in recent times.
Two goals from Conor Grimes and one from Conall McKeever, along with points from Ciaran Byrne put Louth on their way to the semis, but it was a whole team effort that got Louth there in the end, a team spirit that McNamee and his selectors have created.
Their last competitive game came little more than a month ago when they faced Meath in the first round of the competition, but there were no sign of complacency coming into the Laois game and now, with over a month to go for their next game, McNamee is hoping that his side can keep the momentum going.
“We are looking forward to it”, said McNamee. “It’s a big thing for Louth to get to a Minor Championship semi-final.”
Looking ahead, McNamee spoke of his welcome headache as he tries to plan ahead for the next month.
“The exams are coming up and there is not much we can do with them during that. We will have to plan it very carefully and it’s very difficult to do with many of them finishing their exams at different times.
“If you go full tilt in training, then there is a chance you could wreck them, for the exams and the game, so we will plan carefully.”
Despite the fact that his training schedule will not be as packed as he would like it to be, McNamee is confident in his side’s ability, as seen against Meath and Laois. His full forward line was on fire on the day as McKeever, Grimes and Byrne got on the scoresheet to fire their side through.
“They are very capable lads. Two of them are only 17 and they are very level headed and know what to do.
“Conor is a big, strong lad and deserved his goals. He’s well able to get them and he’s one of the big lads we have on the team, which is good to have as over the years, I think we have been a bit on the small side.”
Louth’s reward for getting through to the semis is another match with Meath, who have come through the back door to get another crack at the Louth side who beat them in the first round. This time though, the match will be played in Meath’s back garden, Páirc Táilteann.
“It will be different as it’s in their back yard. I just hope our lads are fresh and they are looking forward to it. It’s a good surface, a good pitch and we wouldn’t mind playing anyone on it.”
McNamee and his charges are all too aware that Meath may be out to gain revenge for the defeat in the first round.
“Meath probably found out more about themselves in losing than they did if they had of won that game. They probably got a couple of players since then, as have we and we will try to put our best foot forward. The first match, looking back was a nothing match as you got a second shot, a shot they have taken, but this time there’s no second chance so this is the one to win.”
Since the Meath match, Louth have played a number of Challenge Matches where McNamee and his panel have got familiar with tactics and formations, but over the next couple of weeks, formations and tactics will pave way for Irish, English, Maths and other subjects.
“I think the games we played in the last number of weeks will put us in good stead. We cannot really play matches as these lads need their fingers and hands for holding pens in exams so the dread would be something happening to one of them.”
A Louth and Meath clash doesn’t need any extra spice after last year’s senior Leinster Final, but the fact that Dundalk Schools beat St Patrick’s of Navan in Páirc Táilteann earlier this year gives it just that.
“It’s a tough job for us as it’s a Leinster semi-final and no matter who you play, it’s going to be difficult. Many people are saying the real final is on the other side as Dublin are playing Kildare, but our game has a bit of spice in it seeing as though we’ve faced each other before.
“The Dundalk Schools lads know the pitch and liked it and our team is progressing all the time. We learned a lot about ourselves against Laois. For years, we never won a Championship match at this level so anything now is a bonus.”
McNamee is hoping that a large Louth support will turn up on Wednesday, June 29 to cheer on his side.
“We hope to show everyone the good work that is being done at underage level in Louth that night and challenge for honours not only this year, but next year and the years following this.”