Steady as it goes. Louth’s take from Division Two of the league is as good as anyone with an interest in the team could have expected before the competition got underway. A new management had just been put in place, some of last year’s stars were on the easy-list - some of them still are - and while there were wins in the early stages of the O’Byrne Cup, the semi-final rout by Dublin wouldn’t have done confidence much good.
Then there was the stuttering start to the points competition, defeat by Westmeath in a game that had Louth’s name written all over it but was somehow allowed slip away. After that there were more ups than downs, wins over Galway and Armagh to go with Sunday’s, defeats by Wexford and Derry and a draw with Laois.
The loss to Derry in the second-last round ended all hopes of promotion, but, really, to have made it to the top division would have surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic. Good if there’s Division Two football again next season, they’d have said.
There was a threat of relegation going into Sunday’s concluding round. Defeat by Longford wouldn’t necessarily have opened the trapdoor; but better to do your own work than depend on Laois beating Wexford, or Galway beating Armagh.
By the time the results of those matches came through, Louth had done the business, the win at the Gaelic Grounds having its foundation in Shane Lennon’s 30th-minute penalty, Brian White’s free-taking and a fine third quarter that yielded eight unanswered points.
That rush of scores was a reminder of what happened in the Derry game. However, unlike then – and, indeed, in other matches - the foot was kept to the boards. The already-relegated Longford were shown no mercy in the latter stages.
This is not the greatest collection of players to wear the red jersey. True, it has been hard hit by injuries, and this, allied to his desire to experiment, meant Aidan O’Rourke was never able to, or maybe didn’t want to, name the same fifteen for consecutive matches.
To have kept his charges in Division Two is a good result for the new boss. He now turns his attention to the championship and its opening round away match with Laois. League form suggests this will be a Bill-or-Ben - or evens each of two, as the say at the dog track – and for the winner a terrific chance of making the final. There are some bodies in need of repair, and about five places still up for grabs. In the meantime, there’s a lot of club football to be played. All the time, however, thoughts will be focussed on the last Sunday in May.
Isn’t it all that better that when the knock-out’s knock-out comes about, there’ll be another Division Two campaign to look forward to, Louth pitched in with three of this season’s rivals, Galway, Laois and Armagh, along with the All-Ireland champions of last year, Donegal, the finalists of 2010, Down, and neighbours, Meath and Monaghan, whose sojourn in Division Three was short, just as Longford and Wexford’s was in the tier above that.
And now for some 2013 League accolades, open to only Louth players: Mr Consistent, Dessie Finnegan, closely followed by Adrian Reid. One Who Can Be Trusted With Penalties And Other Shots At Goals: Shane Lennon. Leave That Free To Me: Brian White. Breath Of Fresh Air: Ciaran Byrne. I Haven’t Lost It, You Know: Paddy Keenan. Go On, Try Me, In A One-To-One; Neil Gallagher. Was I Ever Away?: John O’Brien. I’m Here If You Want Me: Kieran Maguire. I’m Happiest Going Forward From The Back: Derek Crilly.