The sense of optimism and anticipation was palpable in the run up. Sure Laois had just been massacred on their own doorstep.
All around the county talk was of another run to the final. A favourable draw saw the big guns on the other side. A dedicated team which had been running itself into walls since last October was ready. It was beginning to feel like now or never for many.
Then Wexford came and pinned the balloon and the Delaney Cup disappeared from view for another year.
Some teams might have packed the bags and stared off into the distance for the remainder of the summer. But the feeling that this Louth team are mentally tougher than previous incarnations won’t go away.
One thing he’ll take from the Wexford defeat is the feeling that Louth fans were believing once again. For Paddy Keenan it was something even he hadn’t seen in all his days in red.
“The buzz around the county coming up to the Wexford game was one of the best in my whole time playing with Louth, so it shows the support that is around the county,” stated the St Patrick’s man.
Sure the result was a major downer, but there has been no let up in the preparation and concentration from the panel. An extended run in the qualifiers is long overdue as well.
“While we didn’t get the result the last day or play overly well, hopefully the supporters have seen enough in this team through the league and the first two games in the championship that they will come out to support us again and believe that there’s potential to have a good run in the qualifiers”, urges Keenan.
Last Monday’s draw couldn’t have been any kinder really. Antrim are a team in considerable disarray. A tragic league season saw them plunge into the wastelands of Divison Four and new manager Frank Dawson has been fighting fires on all fronts. Tomas McCann and Tony Scullion very publically failed to see eye-to-eye with Dawson during the league. And then current star Sean McVeigh had a very public spat with former player Kevin McGourty on Twitter after Antrim’s anaemic Ulster championship surrender to Monaghan.
The Saffrons are a wounded animal. Keenan knows from past experience not to take anything for granted though.
“The general perception around the county would be that it’s a favourable draw, but the panel wouldn’t be thinking that way. The last time we played them (in 2010), they beat us well up in Casement. We played them in a couple of challenges this season and they’ve been tight enough so we wouldn’t be expecting anything easy.”
He also sees similarities.
“They’re probably similar to ourselves in that they’ve a lot of quality throughout their team, they’ve maybe underachieved.”