2012 was a year to forget for Shane Lennon. Injury robbed him of a run in the intercounty side.
Now, when he looks back at that prolonged period on the sides lines, it’s clear that he had to deal with the mental issues as much as the physical issues effecting him - Lennon isn’t a man who likes to be idle.
He spent a lot of last summer preparing for his comeback and if his performances in the league this year are anything to go by, he’s looking sharper than ever.
“I did a lot of work over the summer”, explains the Kilkerley Emmets forward. “It was a frustrating 18 months coming back from injury. I was lucky enough that I had a good preseason. I had to step out of a couple of games towards the end of the league with a couple of niggling injuries. But thankfully they’ve cleared up now and I should be fresh for Sunday.”
Wexford are the opponents at The Gaelic Grounds that day. Lennon remembers a previous Leinster championship quarter final clash with the Model County back in 2007.
That year The Wee County had come off the back of a decent replay win over Wicklow in the previous round. It actually took Eamon McEneaney’s men two replays to finally put down Wicklow and many felt that with Wexford coming into the game cold, Louth could snatch a place in the semi final against Laois.
But despite hitting two goals, Louth were beaten by 0-16 to 2-18. Lennon is of the belief that the Reds were a spent force by the time they faced Wexford that year.
“I know the three games against Wicklow in 2007 spun us out a wee bit and we probably might not have been as fresh that time.”
Of the Louth team that faced Wexford that year and the one that lined out against Laois two weeks ago there were three survivors – Lennon, John O’Brien and Paddy Keenan.
Even though Wexford dumped them out of the Leinster Championship that year, The Wee County went on a decent run in the qualifiers. It’s all old news to Lennon though.
“I think that year (2007), after we were beaten by Wexford we got the momentum going again and I think we beat Limerick and we beat Kildare as well and then Cork beat us in the last twelve.
“But that’s done and dusted now and I’m sure a lot of the Wexford lads have moved on as well. It’s going to be totally different game and it’s great to have gotten home advantage now”, added the full forward.
Its the big championship games that define how an intercounty player will be remembered, it’s something Lennon knows all to well.
He feels that the Laois game two weeks ago was up there with the best that he has seen from a Louth team in his time.
“You have to rate your games in a Louth shirt in the championship. The only other game I can compare to that is the Kildare game in Navan in 2010. They’re probably the best two performances we’ve put in. But they’re over and done with. The main thing is putting performances back to back now in this championship.”
To put back to back victories together a particular plan will need to be conjured up by Aidan O’Rourke and his backroom staff. But if anything, tailoring plans to suit each occasion is something O’Rourke has shown he is a dab hand at this year. Lennon agrees.
“You have to have a plan going into every game. No doubt Aidan and the lads will come up with another plan for Wexford. We know what way they play from the league and I’m sure they’ve a plan set out for us.
“They would have been sitting back I’m sure down in O’Moore park studying us. They’s a first glance at championship teams. But Aidan will have his homework done.”
There’s been a lot of talk about the use of Drogheda for the Wexford match. The pros and cons have been dicussed at length. And although Louth have put in better performances away from Drogheda in the league this year, Lennon isn’t paying much attention to the form books.
“There is a big deal (being made about it), naturally. I think the last championship game we played there might have been a couple of qualifiers over the last couple of years. I don’t think I’ve played a Leinster Championship game there.
“But we all played there underage there, minor U21, so well all know the field like the back of our hand. I think you have to take that (performances in Drogheda this year) with a pinch of salt.
“It makes no odds. The hunger of fifteen men and whoever is more tactically prepared will come out with the result.”
Something which has been said already about the louth team this season is how fit they look. Lennon agrees there has been a change in the team, but he believes it’s as much to do with the change in the management personality as it is with the ideas on the training pitch.
“Everyone has put in a massive preseason with Aidan and Mick McGurn so it’s going to stand to us. There’s a new professionalism that we haven’t had the last couple of years, states the Kilkerley man.
“It’s just something fresh, it’s not even that it’s something new. It’s the new faces, that brings something new every year when you’ve a new manager coming in.”
Of course nobody will be getting too carried away with a single win in the championship. The Laois game is in the past and it’s all about Sunday now.
“The focus is well off the Laois game now and heading towards Wexford now”, add Lennon.
According to the Louth forward the panel looks fit and healthy and the excersions of Portlaosie appear not have caused any injuries or other issues with the team.
“Me and Paddy (Keenan) were saying on the way back up on the bus there’ll be knocks, but just bruises really and there’s no main injury concerns.
“Lets hope everyone game remain fit over the next few days and be raring to go on Sunday.”