IT’S that time of the year when things come thick and fast for Peter Fitzpatrick.
On Wednesday night, he has a Leinster Junior Championship quarter-final to prepare for against Kildare in Newbridge. At the weekend, he will pray that his players come through a full set of club league fixtures and following that, he will send out his team for one last Challenge Match against Roscommon in Cavan on Tuesday, May 31.
But it’s times like this that Fitzpatrick loves as he prepares for the business end of the season, the Championship.
On Sunday, against Cavan, he got some of his charges warmed up for both competitions with a comprehensive win, 1-19 to 0-12 over the Breffni men.
Fitzpatrick effectively used two teams, his senior panel in the first half and junior panel in the latter stages of the match.
The switches worked as Louth did not diminish when the young players came on, something that pleased the Louth boss as they all stuck to a pre-determined system.
“What I done was I put out the strongest possible team I could in the first half”, said Fitzer.
“They did very well with a gale force wind and in the second half, we tried a lot of junior players out who will be used in Wednesday night’s game.
“Overall, I thought it was a very good game. We had a system in play which I wanted the lads to use from the start to the finish.”
Keeping the backbone of the team together, Fitzpatrick alternated with the rest of the pack, allowing Louth to maintain their stranglehold on the game.
“Even when the substitutes came on, I thought we did very well and in fairness, with Paddy Keenan playing so well in the middle of the field and Dessie Finnegan and Aaron Hoey in the back line, we kind of kept the main backbone of the team together. I thought it was a very worthwhile exercise.”
Whilst many players staked their claim on the day, the two Reids, Adrain and David certainly grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck as their performances were both breath-taking in periods of the game.
Calling David Reid in at this stage of the season has seemed to lift the forward line, who were already competing for places.
“I won’t say David Reid is a great find, as he’s been around for a long time”, said the Louth boss.
“But this year he is available to play for Louth and it’s a fantastic opportunity. We can play him on the forty, as we did today. His distribution is great, he can take players into play.
“It is something going forward, especially after losing the three lads. I just think that was a fantastic game before the Championship and we have another game against Roscommon for May 31 and that may be in Cavan.”
The Roscommon game will be Fitzer’s last chance to assess his squad ahead of the Carlow game where he knows Louth will start off a round later than they did last year. But before that, he is willing to unleash Brian Donnelly and David Reid against Kildare this Wednesday as they are eligible to start in the Junior Championship.
“That will be our last game. We are looking forward to it. Four or five of this team can play in the Junior Championship on Wednesday night and I’m taking the Championship very serious. Kildare have been training for it since January 1 and we have had the lads in the panel for the last four or five weeks. It’s created a good team and we have had 30 to 40 lads in training the whole time and it’s a good way to go forward.
“You saw from the introductions today, we did not weaken the team. If we can keep this team and lads together, it’s good for Louth football.”
This year, Kildare’s Junior Championship team has trained away from Kieran McGeeney’s main side, but Fitzpatrick has promised that his side will look to retain the cup.
“Kildare’s junior team are completely different than their senior team and they are putting a big effort in this year. We put a big effort in last year and will do again this year.
“We feel confident enough going to Newbridge on Wednesday night. We have a good panel. The backbone of the team will be David Reid and Brian Donnelly. They are eligible to play and I will put out the strongest team I have.
“I’ve no problem playing those lads. It’s three weeks until the Senior Championship and as I said, we will put a big effort in.
“We have a lot of young lads on Wednesday and it’s important to put those other lads in who have experience. Last year, the toughest game we had in the Championship was against Kildare.
“So it’s going to be another tough game.”
Fitzpatrick admitted that he is trying to bring as many of the Under-21s through as he can and that a lot of them will feature again on Wednesday and in the years to come.
“The team that finished today, most of them were Under-21. We are always trying to give young lads a chance and over the next couple of years, we will try to keep the boys together and keep building. This year, getting out of Division Three was a big bonus.
“Division Two will be very tough next year and we will need these young lads to blend in with the experienced lads.”
Injury wise, Louth are fighting fit at the moment, bar a back injury to Mark Brennan, whilst JP Rooney missed the game due to a bug.
Shane Lennon is back playing and will have another three weeks to sharpen his fitness for the June 12 match with Carlow.
Louth play Kildare in Newbridge on Wednesday, May 25. Throw-in is 7.30.