A ‘useful exercise’ was how new Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke described last Sunday’s Challenge match with Dublin in Newfoundwell.
Played as part of the Newtown Blues’ 125th anniversary celebrations, the low key match gave O’Rourke an early chance to assess potential players and he said he was happy with what he saw.
“It’s a starting point”, he said. “I wasn’t aware of the game until I took over but it was good to have it. It gave us a look at fellas from last year’s panel who I wouldn’t have been too familiar with and it gives us a start in looking at players who might come in and do a job.
“There is a lot of stuff that goes on in the background that I suppose nobody sees but this is the first day ‘out front’ and it’s nice to get a look at fellas playing football. Today wasn’t full beam Championship football but there was a lot of endeavour in a lot of them and you can see what they are trying to achieve.”
The major plusses for O’Rourke will have been the reappearance of Shane Lennon in a Louth shirt and the performance of teenager Ciaran Byrne alongside Lennon in the full forward line.
Lennon missed the whole of the 2012 campaign through injury but looked lean, if a bit ring rusty, on his return to the county colours.
A winter of hard work should have the Kilkerley star at full pelt for the O’Byrne Cup in January and O’Rourke said he was delighted to see the big man back in action.
“Shane has been out for a long time. He has a bit of work to do but you can see the touches of class with him. He’s a very important player. Every county has a certain amount of players at that level and Shane is certainly one of them”.
Byrne certainly has the potential to follow in Lennon’s footsteps. The youngster helped himself to 1-2 against the Dubs and Louth are set to benefit from the fact that has postponed a move to Australian Rules football for the foreseeable future.
“Ciaran has started his course in DCU”, explained O’Rourke. “I think for the next 12 months he is going to be in this country. What happens after that remains to be seen”.
The St Mochta’s player didn’t look out of place on Sunday and O’Rourke said he would have no reservations about using him in the National League or Championship despite his age.
“I don’t care what age anybody is”, said O’Rourke, “whether they be 17 or 40. If they can contribute something then we will be asking them to make themselves available”.
Brian White was another notable inclusion in the Louth squad, coming on as a half-time substitute for John Kermode.
In the two summers after reaching the Leinster final in 2010, Louth’s hopes of progress were affected by emigration with White, along with John O’Brien and Mick Fanning, missing at crucial stages.
O’Rourke is hoping he can stay clear of those sort of problems but he admitted it was something that was out of his hands. White, though, appears to have given his word that he will be around for the 2013 campaign.
“Emigration is not something that is strictly under my control”, said O’Rourke. “I’d hope that everybody would make themselves available and will want to play for Louth.
“That will depend on the environment that we put there for them but sometimes even that cannot control what players do. People have to eat and have to work.
“Brian is part of the trial process at the minute but anybody who is here and competing and making themselves available, it is on the undertstandintg that they want to make the O’Byrne Cup panel and the National League panel after that. By virtue of the fact that he is here, the understanding is that he will play with Louth for 2013.”
Another star of the 2010 run set to benefit from a change of manager is Newtown Blues forward Colm Judge who was an onlooker on Sunday.
“Colm is probably in the same boat as Brian. He is keen to make himself available and compete. He has a medical procedure to undergo in a few weeks which will rule him out of football for a while but he will be working away and doing what he can in the meantime”, said O’Rourke.
SCORERS - Dublin: Robbie McCarthy (2-1), Harry Dawson, Ciaran Redding, Niall Collins (0-3 each), Conor Walsh, Chris Carthy (0-2 each), Daniel Byrne (0-1).
Louth: Ciaran Byrne (1-2), Jim McEneaney (1-2, 1 ‘45), Brian White (1-0, 1 pen), Shane Lennon (0-4, 4f), Conor Rafferty, Ruairi Moore (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: Michael Savage; Jack Smith, Barry O’Hanlon, Michael Concar; Declan Lally, Darren Daly, Nicky Devereux; Craig Dunleavy, Daithi Murphy; Daniel Byrne, Conor Walsh, Ciaran Redding; Niall Collins, Robbie McCarthy, Harry Dawson. Subs used: Chris Carthy, Vinny Whelan, Jonathan McDermott, Dean Styles, Luke Sweetman, Hugh Gill.
LOUTH: Joe Flanagan; Gerard Hoey, Conor McGuinness, Jamie Carr; Stephen Moonan, Liam Shevlin, Conor Rafferty; John Kermode, Declan Byrne; Jimmy Murray, Jim McEneaney, Cathal Bellew; Ciaran Byrne, Shane Lennon, Pauric Smith. Subs used: Neil Gallagher, Mick Fanning, Jason Clarke, David McComish, Brian White, Ruari Moore.
WIDES: Dublin – 13 (7 first-half), Louth – 7 (5 first-half).
REFEREE: Cormac Bellew (Meath).