Winner takes all in Navan clash

With both Louth and Meath winning their opening games in the O’Byrne Cup it means tomorrow night’s clash in Navan is shaping up to be a winner takes all battle for top spot in Group A.

With both Louth and Meath winning their opening games in the O’Byrne Cup it means tomorrow night’s clash in Navan is shaping up to be a winner takes all battle for top spot in Group A.

Both teams still have a final group game on Sunday, however the winner of Wednesday night’s game will be in pole position to progress to the semi finals of the competition as group winners, which adds an extra edge according to new Reds boss Aidan O’Rourke.

“Meath Louth games are always going to be a tasty enough affair, so it’s good to get as many competitive games as we can. That (topping group A) might be an extra edge with the game on Wednesday night and that can only be good for the team.”

Having put UCD to the sword on Sunday, O’Rourke has little time to prepare his troops for the trip to Navan tomorrow night (Wednesday), but it does give him the chance to blood his full squad.

“I suppose that was the plan all along”, explains O’Rourke. “There’s three games in seven days and nobody is going to start all three I would imagine.

“There will be a number of changes for Wednesday night. But we’ll need to have a look at who’s fit and well and see how fellas have recovered from Sunday.”

As he spoke about Sunday’s maiden victory over UCD, the Dromintee man shirked away from any thoughts of whether there were any personal nerves on the day.

“Not really to be honest. My focus was on the players and trying to prepare them. Any nerves I had were for them so they would do well, but from my perspective that doesn’t come into it.”

Although the win isn’t the most important aspect at this time of the season, O’Rourke knows that to compete is to win and victory certainly breaths confidence going forward.

“We’re playing football and the object of the exercise is to win. That was the first task today and they did that. Obviously it’s not the be all and end all at this stage of the year. But if you’re a competitor at all you would prefer to come out the right side of any result.”

Meanwhile the return of John O’Brien to the Louth set up has bolstered O’Rourke’s options this season. The Sean O’Mahony’s man sat out the win over UCD, but speaking to the Dundalk Democrat on Monday, O’Rourke revealed that O’Brien, who was nominated for an All-Star in 2010, is some way off from being fit for inter county duty.

“John is in the squad alright, but he has a bit more work to do, what with him being away for so long. But he’s kept himself well and with a bit more conditioning he should be there or there abouts.

“But the O’Byrne Cup has come a bit too soon for him, so he won’t be playing in it”, added O’Rourke.

The ankle injury to new man Gary Connolly looked serious on Sunday afternoon, but the Louth boss was relieved to learn that the damage was less severe than first thought, however the St Mochtas full back will still be out for two to three weeks.

Likewise Sunday’s captain, Derek Crilly, limped off with a recurrence of a hamstring injury and he is also likely to be out for a similar period, according to O’Rourke.

Looking at the team he will put out tomorrow night, the Armagh man stated that he will be looking to make between five and six changes from the team that started against UCD.

“I’m waiting on a status report from the physio first and then I’ll be able to judge who’ll be in the running for Wednesday night”, he explained.

O’Rourke also revealed that it is unlikely that St Patrick’s star Ray Finnegan will take any part in the O’Byrne Cup due to an ongoing injury problem.

Although playing on Wednesday evening is not ideal, O’Rourke is not opposed to suggested plans to play some National League games on a Friday evening in the future.

“Sure the preparation is not ideal, what with lads working during the day, but I wouldn’t mind if they introduced Friday night games, but only if the players have Friday off work.”