Louth Minor boss Thomas McNamee hailed his side for playing with pride and confidence as they dumped Meath out of the Leinster Minor Championship.
The Wee County’s young guns prevailed in a scintillating, physical game against Meath but before people get carried away McNamee was keen to remind supporters that it was only one win, albeit against bitter rivals Meath.
“It’s the first round so it means nothing. We set a target for at least three games in this Championship so we’ve one done. The result will give us a boost in training.”
McNamee was also delighted to see his side repay his faith after giving them the benefit of a week off to concentrate on schoolwork.
“All the work we didn’t do, we really rested these lads. They are working hard enough. Two oral exams two weeks in a row, we had to take that into consideration, we give them the week off, let them play with their clubs.
“The last ten minutes maybe said that would be coming back to haunt me and that we should of been slogging away in training like seniors, but we train them like minors so they have the energy to play for the hour and not stop, regardless of whether we were five points down or ten points down.
“In fairness to the boys, they played with a bit of confidence and that’s what we were focusing on, that feel good factor, enjoying themselves. They are Louth men, Louth and proud, and they went out and gave us a performance. We had nothing for the last 50 or 60 years, no pressure on us, just go out and win ball.”
In training, Louth have been working on shape and tactics rather than fitness drills taking up the majority of time on the training ground, something McNamee thought proved vital in the end.
“We’ve been working a lot on shape, not a lot of fitness stuff, more on shape and get a picture in their head of what they were going to face here.
“What they needed to have, correct their mistakes. We’ve improved on every game and hopefully we will improve from today.”
John Horan’s goal in the second half catapulted Louth to the win. His wonder strike opened up a six point lead and was a joy to behold, but McNamee knew he was capable of such a hit.
“John is something else. He really is a special guy. They gave him a lot of respect leaving the full back on him the whole time because they may have thought Ciaran Byrne would have done a lot of the damage.
“John is a capable fella, he is very strong. He has great feet on him and he did not touch much leather before that, but I was delighted for him, but that was a super finish. It took a while to get it into the net, but it dropped in and it was lucky for us that it did because we needed it.”
Meath retaliated with a goal of their own, something McNamee expected, but he was happy with how his side responded and said the victory was for all those who give their time to minor football in the county.
“Meath were after being in two Leinster Finals, they won one and lost one. So they were always going to get a sexy score that our boys would have to get on with and it was about the next kick-out.
“Robert McCabe is an excellent free kick taker, Byrne has brilliant feet so you are relying on those lads and we knew that if we went at Meath we would cause them problems.
“This performance is about all the people who are working at underage, the volunteers who have been doing it for years.
“The media in the past may have given us a hammering, asking questions in a public domain but we have been working our socks off all the time trying to get it right. We’ve always had good players in this county but maybe the structures haven’t been there, but under Brendan Carthy now, the structures are there.
“The support I’ve got from the County Board, Senior and Minor has been 100%. Anything we’ve asked for, there was nothing that has not been delivered.”
The win now puts Louth in good stead ahead of their next game, but when they do take the pitch to face their next opponents on May 14, McNamee is confident that Dundalk Schools stars Sean Thornton and Conall McKeever will return to the fold.
“That will put a spring in their step and now they know they can listen to us, trust us to be able to put our game plan together and that when they are in the trenches.
“We went for the win today and I’m glad we got it. I’m hoping Conall McKeever and Sean Thornton can come back.”
Meanwhile Louth midfielder Robert McCabe was delighted with the team’s win, citing that it was the determination of the whole squad that got them over the finishing line.
“We are thrilled. I suppose it’s a bit of revenge for what happened in Croke Park last year.
“It’s a great day. Fair play to the whole team, we all dug in, it was a complete team and squad effort.”
In the last ten minutes, Meath started applying more pressure but two late scores, a free from Byrne and a ‘45’ from McCabe sealed the win.
“The pressure was starting to come on but it took a great team effort to get through.
““I knew we had the resilience to hang on. We started winning some breaking ball and got it to Ciaran Byrne and John Horan and they done the buiness. I knew we had it in us. Hopefully we will be in it for a long time yet.”