Dublin always a big test - O’Rourke

Louth’s reward for beating Longford on Sunday is a meeting with Dublin in the semi final of the O’Byrne Cup on Sunday in Drogheda.

Louth’s reward for beating Longford on Sunday is a meeting with Dublin in the semi final of the O’Byrne Cup on Sunday in Drogheda.

Although a relative novice to inter county management, Reds boss Aidan O’Rourke knows that any game against the Dubs is a big occasion, regardless of the competition.

“You know yourself, it’s a big game any time you play the Dubs, they’re going very well under Jim Gavin. They have an embarrassment of riches in terms of options. Who knows what sort of team they’ll put out, but we’ll just focus on ourselves.

“To be fair the focus for us is the national league and what we’re trying to achieve with the team between now and then.

“Next week was going to be no different whether it was going to be a competitive game against Dublin or a challenge match.”

On the injury front, both JP Rooney and Ray Finnegan are still on the treatment table and O’Rourke is not in any rush to bring back those players ahead of schedule.

“Both those men are a wee bit away yet. Maybe a month or six weeks for JP. Those lads are keen to get back involved so it’s important that when they do come back in that they’re starting at a good level and that they’re healthy and able to compete and withstand the training rigours.

“I wouldn’t be rushing anybody back and they probably won’t feature in the first two league games anyway”, added the Armagh man.

Apart from Finnegan and Rooney Louth have been lucky injury-wise, O’Rourke is aware of his good fortune so far.

“The rest of the injuries on the panel are starting to clear up, thank god. There’ll always be bumps and bruises, but thank God we haven’t been too bad this year so far.”

As he looked back at Sunday’s match and also the Meath game on Thursday night, the Louth boss was most pleased with the way his side kept their work rate high in the second half against Longford, particularly after the second half slump in Navan.

“That was probably the most pleasing thing from our point of view on Sunday. What happened to us on Thursday night (against Meath) with the work rate, we probably felt at half time that the work was done and they were going out just to play football in the second half.

“Today that wasn’t the case, the work rate was phenomenal and, albeit a weakened Longford team, they couldn’t live with that pace and it was pleasing to see. They probably lasted about 50 minutes today, so there’s still a bit to do conditioning wise, but we’ll get there.”

Kehoe Cup

Meanwhile the inter County hurling season gets underway for Louth on Sunday as Pat Clancy’s side face Queens in the Kehoe Cup.

Queens will make a little bit of history that day when they become the first Ulster university side to compete in a Leinster pre-season competition.

If the Wee County are successful against the university side in Darver they will face a tricky tie with Kildare the following week.

Louth selector Aidan Costello knows that Queens will be slightly fitter as they are midway through their college season, but the Wee County have been working hard in the gym since mid-November.

“It’s more about strength and conditioning this year, in the last two Rackard finals, against London and Armagh, we saw that they were big physical sides, so that’s what we’ve been working on in pre-season.”

The goal this season, according to Costello, is another shot at the Rackard trophy, but the league is also important.

“We want to do well in the league naturally, we were a bit disappointed with last season, but the goal is to win a Rackard final.”