There are ghosts that need exorcising for Louth hurling manager Pat Clancy on Saturday in Croke Park.
During his last tenure as Louth coach the Westmeath man took the Wee County to a Nicky Rackard Cup Final against Sligo in 2008, however that day Clancy was banished to the stands and had to watch helplessly as Louth imploded and surrendered.
“I met a referee that didn’t like me and he sent me off,” stated Clancy. “I ended up in the stand for my troubles and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
“I wasn’t allowed into the dressing room before the game, I wasn’t allowed in at half time either.
“I was in the stand trying to listen to people on microphones and walky talkies, it wasn’t a nice experience. You couldn’t get a message out to the team.
“You could see things happen that you knew were going wrong, but by the time you got the message out it was nearly too late. So it’s not a nice place to be.”
First season back
This season was Pat’s first season back in charge, however it didn’t start as smoothly as he would have liked.
“We got started late. I wasn’t appointed until near the end of January. It was slow getting going, but we gradually pulled it together.
“We should have won a couple of league matches that would have put us in the league final, but we didn’t.
The Westmeath man has nothing put praise for the quality of the local Tain League and he believes it is a major benefit for the County set-up.
“The Tain league has helped. There’s lads in there that have played ten or twelve matches in that league, so from that point of view we let all the players play in the Tain league with the clubs.
“The signs are that Knockbridge, Pearse Og and Mattock Rangers all ended up in the Tain League Final , which is very good for the county.”
Clancy sees that league as a better way of getting game time for lads than arranging bloodless challenge matches.
“I like to see lads hurling. Hurling is about playing the game and first touch and catching the ball.
“The thing is it’s better if they’re playing full on with their club than trying to arrange challenge matches that you don’t actually know who you’re playing against and they are going at half pace.”
Half pace wasn’t good enough against Armagh in the opening round of the Rackard Cup, Louth put in a good first half performance, but fell away in the second half and handed the tie to the Orchard County.
The Louth manager stated that it was hard to motivate and pick up the team after that defeat in Dowdallshill.
“They felt that they left something behind.
“We had nine wides in the first half and if we scored half of them we would have been in front at half time.
“Then we scored a goal straight after half time and we put it up to Armagh, they had only fourteen men at that stage.”
“Instead of us getting the next score after the goal they got the next couple of scores and our heads went done because Armagh have had the upper hand on Louth for the last few years. It wasn’r always like that.”
The next match against Sligo could have ended in disaster and events preceding the match almost derailed the Wee County’s challenge.
“They sent us on a round the country tour after that (Armagh game). Sligo was a tough journey because we had some sort of a stomach bug in the camp and some of the lads were sick getting off the bus. It didn’t look good.”
“But the referee was delayed and it gave us time to get our thoughts together.”
“We didn’t play well in the first half, but we got it together in the second half and the guys lifted it and went on from there.
In the Semi Final Clancy’s charges saw a poor first half converted into a winning second period.
“We made few changes just after half time, same as we did in the Sligo match. We brought in a couple of stronger guys instead of fast pacey forwards and that seemed to work for us.
“The ball was going in quicker and when Shane got the goal you could see the weight lifting off everyones shoulders and they didn’t look back after that.”
With a good half here and a poor half there, Clancy is well aware that 70 mihutes will be needed to overhaul Armagh in Croke Park on Saturday.
“We hurled reasonably well against Armagh last time out.
“If we can hurl like we did against Armagh in the first half and as we did against Donegal in the second half, well then you’d come away from Croke Park pleased and possibly with a victory.”
Apart from a couple of niggles, everything is looking good on the injury front and Clancy whould have a full panel at his disposal.
“Things are quite good. We’ve couple of lads with hamstring injuries - Shane Callan, Darren O’Hanrahan, but they’re coming along.
“We should have a fairly clean bill of health.”
In order to vary training and give the lads a welcome break, Clancy took them to the beach last week, however the Louth manager was on the receiving end of some high jinks.
“Of course when they picked me up and threw me into the sea it helped them,” laughed the Louth manager.