IT’S an important week for underage football in Louth as the fate of two aspiring teams will be decided.
In the coming week, Louth’s Under-21s will start their Leinster Championship campaign and Dundalk Schools will battle if out for a place in the Leinster Colleges ‘A’ Championship Final.
First on the agenda is Dundalk Schools who play St Mary’s College Edenderry this Saturday in Navan at 2.30pm.
For Leslie Toal’s side, it is a chance to reach the final and repeat the success of the 2002 team that won the competition, a side that included Paddy Keenan, Ronan Carroll, Shane Lennon and Neil Gallagher.
Now, the current crop have their chance this Saturday. Their route to the final has been impressive. They dismissed the challenge of a tough Westmeath side in the first round when they overcame Coláiste Mhuire, 1-8 to 0-7, courtesy of a Conall McKeever goal and four points on the day from Ciaran Byrne.
In the quarter-finals they swept aside Coláiste Iosagain, 4-7 to 1-5 with Byrne grabbing 1-5 and goals coming from McKeever, Shane Thornton and Patrick Reilly.
Manager Leslie Toal is expecting a tough game from the Edenderry side and insisted that his team will not be taking the northern side lightly.
“We played a northern team in a challenge match a couple of weeks ago and we got beat by a point, but we learned a lot from that game, on how fast the northern teams can use the ball.”
Dundalk played the side before in the competition in Edenderry, but with a neutral venue, Toal thinks his side will be able to handle their competition.
“With the neutral venue, we will stand a chance.”
On Wednesday, February 23, Louth’s Under-21 Leinster Championship campaign gets underway when Kieran Maguire’s side face Wexford.
Maguire tried to get the game moved to Friday to suit some of his players who are in college in the southern part of the country, but the request was denied by Wexford.
“It’s a bad night for the game”, said Maguire. “Perhaps they thought we had lads missing, but it’s just we did not want anyone missing one or maybe two days of college or work.
“Some lads have to come up from Sligo and other places to play and it’s not fair on them, but the request was turned down.”
Having a strong panel at his disposal, Maguire will be sweating over the fitness of some of his players in the next week as they will line out for colleges and the county team.
“Some of the lads are involved with Sigerson and Trench Cup competitions so we are waiting to see how they come through that.
“We also have Andy McDonnell, who is involved with Louth’s senior panel playing on Sunday, so hopefully he gets through that.”
Maguire’s team drew with Monaghan in a challenge match on Sunday morning, which will be their last match before the clash with Wexford.
“We’ve held on to some players from last year. We have a strong panel and I think they are good enough to go all the way. If we win this game, we have a home tie against Kildare next, but we cannot think of that.”
Wexford have retained a number of players from last year’s panel and will be out looking for revenge after Louth dumped them out of the competition, but Maguire thinks his team can overcome the Model County in Wexford next Wednesday night.