McNamee and minors hope to seal final spot

LOUTH and Meath will renew their rivalry just four days after the Royals knocked the Wee County out of the All-Ireland Championship.

LOUTH and Meath will renew their rivalry just four days after the Royals knocked the Wee County out of the All-Ireland Championship.

This time though, it’s the minor sides who do battle as Thomas McNamee’s Louth team look to book a place in the Leinster Final at Croke Park on July 10.

After the doom and gloom that came with the senior side’s departure from the Championship on Saturday night in Breffni Park, the minors are looking to lift the spirits in the county with a second win over the Royals this campaign.

The two sides already met each other in round one of Leinster back in mid-April when a hard working performance from Louth saw them edge out their bitter rivals by 1-13 to 1-11.

However, since then both sides have lost players through injury and also brought in some new faces, which along with the place in a Leinster Final at stake, adds a little of spice to an already explosive tie.

“I think there’s been no focus on the minors as it was all about the seniors and we have slipped in under the radar”, said McNamee. “We are looking forward to it though.”

The team have not played since mid-May as the competition took a break due to Leaving Certificate exams, but now they are ready for action.

“If we get past Meath, we get into a Leinster Final and we are guaranteed at least two games, that’s the way we are looking at it. We did well in Portlaoise in the quarter-final in difficult conditions and acquitted ourselves well.

“We know we can dig ourselves out when things are not going well. There will be twists and turns in the Meath game and we hope we are on the right side of the result.”

The showdown is set to take place in Meath’s back yard, Páirc Táilteann as the Wee County had home advantage in Haggardstown when the sides met previously.

According to McNamee, his side will have no problem with the venue as it’s a wide open pitch.

“That’s the type of pitch we would have hoped for as it’s a wide open space. We looked for that type of pitch when we played them in Louth and got Haggardstown which really suited us.

“It’s better to play them at our game on a pitch like that than to try and ambush them on a small, tight pitch.”

McNamee named his side on Monday and has been forced to make two changes to the side that beat Laois in the quarter-final, back in mid-May.

Conor Grimes, Glen Emmets will miss out after the forward suffered a severe injury to his ankle last week. He went for surgery on Friday, where he had five pins placed in his foot. Along with Grimes, goalkeeper Jamie Mulholland is forced out with a shoulder injury after injuring it whilst playing with his club, Naomh Mairtin.

“With Jamie, it’s a shoulder problem and we could play him, but he’s one for the future and we want him to have the right rehabilitation. He needs another couple of weeks to get it right and we have to protect him and respect that.

“Conor got pins in his ankle on Friday. He’s a huge loss and a tough one to take as it happened with his club, so maybe in future we will have to wrap up our best players ahead of these games.”

In place of Grimes and Mulholland are Paddy Reilly, who is back from injury and Conaire Quigley, who will take Mulholland’s place between the sticks.

Reilly, the Dundalk Schools captain earlier this year will go on the forty with John Horan, Louth’s goal hero against Meath moving up to full-foward.

Horan, along with other players is particularly looking forward to the game, admitted McNamee.

“John is quite capable of the type of goal he scored against Meath. He is looking forward to it as are some players that missed that game such as Michael Kane, Sean Thornton, Conall McKeever and Ciaran Bellew.

“The result from the first game does not matter now, but we know we can beat them. The thing is, these lads are for the future and whatever happens on Wednesday, we have to keep looking after them and pave the road ahead for them.”