We’re claiming him as one of our own at this stage. He may be a Shannonsider by birth, but he’s Louth and proud now.
Wesley Morrissey has been the cliched ‘Great Servant’ for the Wee County for many years. He’s seen hurling emerge from a barely recognised sport within the county to one which, although still much unheralded, is growing; albeit very slowly.
“If I was to be honest, the level of support at games has been quite low”, laments the Limerick man. “I think the game of hurling needs to be promoted right across the county of Louth and the County Board are doing a lot of hard work trying to get more and more young boys and girls picking up a hurley.”
The continued expansion of the game in the county is not just down to the county board according to Morrissey, it involves the creation of new clubs and the players themselves need to work harder at a community level as well.
“We need hurling clubs in town like Drogheda and I know this is been addressed at the moment. However, it’s also up to us a hurling group to try to raise the profile and we can do this in many ways”, explained the Louth star.
“Some of the guys are involved at underage level in their own club at present and that is great but we should be offering our services to other clubs too. There is no reason why 3-4 county players can’t go to a non-hurling club on a Saturday morning and spend time educating the kids and promoting the game of hurling.”
Pat Clancy’s side face Fingal away on Sunday in the opening clash of the national league. It’s the same team they faced in last year’s opener. Looking back at last season and the highs (Nicky Rackard final appearance in Croke Park) and lows (defeat at Croker and a lacklustre league campaign), a lack of motivation seemed to undo Louth in 2012 states Morrissey.
“I think our biggest mistake last year was complacency. We possibly took some teams for granted and it cost us some valuable points. Instead of pushing for a league final spot, we very nearly could have got caught in a relegation dogfight.”
But this year has seen the introduction of some fresh blood, including two fellow Limerick men in the shape of Cian Hayes and Darren Walsh, along with midfielder Nigel Stanley who plays his club football in Kilkenny.
There’s also the fact that the existing squad now has the experience of two Rackard finals under their belts. Hopes are high.
“The squad in general is progressing each year and I have no doubt that the two Nicky Rackard Finals have given players some much needed confidence in their own ability and they are applying that now which can only benefit the team going forward”, adds Morrissey.
A renewed belief is back in Louth hurling this year explained the Limerick man. And a push for a league final place in Division 3A is not beyond the realms of possibility either.
“There is a real belief in this squad this year that if we work hard and play to our real potential, we can make it very difficult for any team in this group.
“We know the talent is there and if we can just get a level of consistency to our game, we have a great chance of getting to a league final.”
Naturally the Rackard competition is the main focus for the Wee County. The trauma of losing last year and the year before that has added a touch of much needed steel to their resolve this year. They desperately need to learn from those teams that have progressed recently, such as Armagh and Antrim.
“We have contested the last two finals so we are improving but we need to make that step up. We were unfortunate to come up against two very strong teams in London and Armagh but we now use them as examples.
“There is no reason why we can’t achieve what they have achieved. We are a small group but I firmly believe if we have the commitment, have belief in what we can achieve and work extremely hard together, we can get back to Croke Park this year and maybe go one step further that we have done in the past.”
As he returns to the subject of improving hurling in the county, Morrissey is a firm believer that success will only bring on the game in the north east. Success in the Nicky Rackard competition at long last could be the catalyst.
“We had large numbers from Louth attend Croke Park and I do believe if we can bring a Nicky Rackard title back to Louth, we will have more and more people picking up a hurley.”
NHL Div 3A Fixtures
Fingal v Louth
Sunday February 24, 2pm, Swords
Louth v Fermanagh
Sunday March 10, 1pm, Pairc Naomh Brid.
Louth v Monaghan
Monday March 18, 2pm, Pairc Naomh Brid
Donegal v Louth
Sunday March 24, 2pm, Letterkenny
Tyrone v Louth
Sunday March 31, 3pm, Omagh