A True Test for Fitzers Fighters in Croke Park on Sunday

They don’t come much bigger than the All Ireland Champions in Croke Park and for Louth on Sunday there’s also the added desire of getting one over the Dubs after that qualifier defeat in 2010.

They don’t come much bigger than the All Ireland Champions in Croke Park and for Louth on Sunday there’s also the added desire of getting one over the Dubs after that qualifier defeat in 2010.

Speaking on Thursday, Louth full forward Darren Clarke reflected on that year and how the fallout from the Leinster Final defeat to Meath impacted the result and performance against the Dubs on that occasion.

“It was the next game after Meath and it was hard to pick ourselves up after that game and Dublin were on a high, so I suppose it’s a different game now and 2010 is put to bed and we’re looking forward to playing them this year.

The Westmeath game two weeks ago was a tense encounter, were The Wee County felt the pressure of being favourites. However this time that will not be an issue, according to Clarke.

“Nobody will give us a chance against Dublin, All Ireland Champions and in Croke Park. They have a proven record up there and we’ll certainly be going in as underdogs.”

Historically Louth have failed to beat the Capital since the early 1970’s and Clarke, who plays his club football in Dublin with Malahide team Sylvesters, knows it’s high time that that statistic is put to bed.

“We owe them one at this stage. But we’ll not look at it like that, we’ll not take any records into context. It’s a new game.

“They’ll put the All Ireland win behind them and try to get back on track.”

Dublin are heading in to the game cold, whereas the Reds have the benefit of the opening round match against Westmeath already under their belts.

“It’s their first time out, so we’ll look to maybe exploit that and at the end of the day we’ve prepared for it.”

One of the few positive points to take from the win over Westmeath two weeks ago is the continued ability of Louth to grind out a result right at the death, something which fans will hope can serve them well in future.

“It was very important for us to remain in Division Two this year,” stated Clarke, “the few games against the likes of Galway and Derry in Celtic Park they were massive to us and gave us confidence to know that we can compete at that level and it’s in the team.

“So I suppose that did stand to us in the long run and we hung in there against Westmeath and at the end of the day we got what we maybe didn’t get in previous years.”

High level

Speaking about the performance last time out, the Ardee man pointed to the difficulty of repeating the level of performance from the last league victory over Meath.

“I suppose the Westmeath game was one of those games were we were after beating Meath in the last game and we went off on such a high that it was probably going to be hard to replicate that level of performance.

“I thought we played well in the first half, we went in two points up at half time, but we didn’t perform to well in first twenty minutes of the second half and that’s something we might have to look at.”

The chance to play in Croke Park is a dream for every budding footballer, but the possibility of facing the reigning All Ireland Champions adds an extra bite to the occasion.

“It’s were every player wants to be and playing against the All Ireland Champions. The last time we played against the All Ireland Champions Tyrone, after they won it we played them in Navan and gave them a good game, so we’ll be looking to give a good account of ourselves, but we’re under no illusions, it’s going to be a tough game and we’ll need to hit out ‘A’ game to beat the Dubs.”

The dubs head into the match on the back of an indifferent league programme, only three wins in seven outings doesn’t look like Champions form, however Clarke is shrewd enough to know that league form goes out the window during the championship.

“You can’t just switch it off or on over night. From talking to a few of the (Dublin) lads that I play club football with, Dublin are playing a good few behind closed doors matches and A versus B matches.

“They seem to believe in them and they seem to be going well with them.

“We’ll not look into the league form too much. They had an up and down league campaign but they were trying out an awful lot of new lads.

“But I’m sure they’ll be playing their strongest fifteen on Sunday.

Insider tips

With his particular position playing for a Dublin club, does Clarke have any insider knowledge for his Louth team mates?

“I haven’t been talking too much with the Dublin lads, we’ve been training a lot here with Louth. Dublin are confident as it is, so they’ll be seeing the game as one they can win.

“At the end of the day it comes down to ourselves and what game we bring to Dublin.

From playing in there I can see that the players here are as good as the ones in Dublin.”

Any thoughts that Dublin will be less hungry due to their dominance of the provincial chmpaionship in recent years was quickly dispelled by the Sylvesters man.

“Dublin will bring their own hunger as well, they’re not All Ireland Champions for nothing, they still have the drive within themselves.”

“They are the type of team that if they open up on you they can score from anywhere. We’re just going to have to be very aware of that.”