In the press room, deep in the bowels of Croke Park on Sunday, Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick sat alone and tried to come to terms with what he had just witnessed.
“It’s the heaviest defeat I’ve ever experienced as a manager and it’s not a nice way to be. But all I’m hoping is that we can bounce back in the next three weeks for the qualifiers.”
The power and pace and all round ruthlessness of Pat Gilroy’s Dublin exposed all facets of the Louth team.
“We came to Croke Park today with a fit team and we felt confident, but in fairness we came across a machine today.”
That ‘machine’ dismantled the Wee County with ease and before the interval it was game set and match.
“From the first minute the ball was thrown in Dublin were physically stronger than us, they were fitter than us, they were faster than us, they were more hungry than us”, stated Fitzer.
“I’ve been involved in football a long time and I’ve never seen a team so strong and physical, they’ve got a game plan with support play. Everything about them was fantastic. You can easily see why they won an All Ireland last year.
Without the reflexes of Neil Gallagher between the sticks it may have been an even heavier thumping, and the Louth TD knew this full well.
“We were very lucky that Neil Gallagher was in such good form, making a few good saves. Some of the Dublin point taking was breathless.
Analysing the Dublin team, Fitzer pointed to the ability of the Dubs forward line to swamp opposition defences and punish them accordingly.
“As far as I’m concerned Dublin is a professional team and played like that from the moment the ball was thrown in.”
“Dublin have six fantastic forwards, they knew straight away were the ball was going. That Dublin team has worked really hard over the last number of years and they were far superior than Louth today.”
Reflecting on that killer period just before half time, Fitzer rued some bad luck.
“We were eight points to two at that stage and that put us nine points to two down and we actually counter attacked again.
“I think Paddy Keenan was very unlucky, he tried to kick the ball over his shoulder and then they ended up with the ball in the back of the net.”
Just before he made his way to the team bus, Fitzpatrick took time to praise his squad and their fighting spirit.
“I’m leaving Croke Park today a very disappointed man, but I’m holding my head up as a proud Louth manager.
“In the second half they could have come out and destroyed us, but the lads kept fighting and putting their bodies in the way, but we were beaten by a better team.”
“All I hope is that these lads don’t drop their heads. I just hope they will continue on and do their best.”