Having conceded home advantage due to a ban handed down from the Leinster Council, St Patrick’s are going to have to do it the hard way if they are to continue their quest for Leinster club championship glory this year.
On Sunday the Lordship side face off against formidable Kildare champions Sarsfields in Newbridge (throw-in 2.30pm).
Sarsfields have reached the Leinster final on two occasions in the past, most recently back in 2005 (when they beat Mattock Rangers in the semi final), so they have the pedigree and experience in Leinster, something sorely lacking from the Pat’s set up at present.
John Crofton’s side ended their seven year wait for a county championship just over two weeks ago when they beat Cadbury by a score of 2-11 to 0-11, it was also their second county final in three years.
A club structure plan released earlier this year by Sarsfields signalled their lofty intentions – to win an All Ireland Club title within 15 years. Whether that happens this year remains to be seen and St Patrick’s will certainly have a say in that on Sunday.
But it’s another stiff proposition for Fergal Reel’s men following their opening win over Rhode in Tullamore, and if they are to banish the Kildare men they face a daunting semi final encounter against either Mullingar Shamrocks of Westmeath or Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams – nobody said it would be easy.
They will be underdogs, something they are not used to at county level, but captain Colin Goss is taking it in his stride.
“It doesn’t really change anything that we will go in as underdogs. We just have to perform on the day nad we’ll not pay any attention to what is said around the match.”
On the matter of losing home advantage Goss is not particularly bothered by another game on the road.
“We’re just concentrating on the game, it doesn’t matter what field or what ground we’re playing on.”
Reflecting on the opening match in Tullamore, the Pat’s captain revealed that his side learned a lot about themselves that day.
“We learned not to give teams too much respect. In that game we put it up to them and managed to push on for the win in the second half.”
Having overcome Rhode, Pat’s finally won in Leinster for the first time since 2003. Goss was delighted to get that particular monkey off his back.
“We had been in Leinster five years without a win, so it definitely was great to get the result, but there are no bad teams in Leinster.
“And we’ll not be thinking too much past our next match,” added Goss.
Paddy Keenan is well aware of the underdogs tag and feels it is probably justified due to the performances of Louth teams over the years in Leinster.
“Obviously it will be difficult but it’s to be expected at this stage. Louth teams haven’t had a good record in Leinster competitions so we’ll be underdogs regardless. “
“It’s a good bit different to the Louth Championship where we were favourites for every game this year. Fergal has had us well prepared for every game so far and we won’t change our preparations for this game.”
Another game on the road and in particular losing home advantage has had a bit of an impact on how St Patrick’s view this game, according to Keenan.
“It was a bit of a blow as we were looking forward to getting a home game and I’m sure our supporters were too. Playing away means it’s an early start on the day of the game and there can be a bit of stiffness and tiredness in the legs.”
Despite this the Louth captain feels there is a renewed belief within the side.
“We always had the belief that we can play with the top teams”, stated Keenan. “But I suppose it was always in the back of our heads that we never actually went out and did it.
“The game in Portlaoise last year, probably hit home that we were good enough to play at this level and we were chomping at the bit to get back to playing in Leinster.”
The win in Tullamore this year has been instrumental in giving them the much needed confidence to believe they can go even further in 2012 though.
“After beating Rhode, it was the first time we’ve beaten a real top team and it just reinforces that belief we have in ourselves.”