It’s expected that the injuries that kept Brian White and Neil Gallagher out of Louth’s two opening National League matches and had John O’Brien and Derek Crilly playing only bit-parts should be healed by the time the round three meeting with Down under lights at Newry’s Pairc Esler comes around on the first Saturday in March.
That all four are needed – along with Shane Lennon and the player about whom there’s been no word in recent months, Ray Finnegan - requires no underlining after Sunday’s abject showing with Laois at Drogheda.
The younger of those who’ve been standing in shouldn’t be condemned as failures; in time they could develop into fine inter-county players. But they are boys who are being asked to do a man’s job which is clearly beyond them, and in the absence of experience around them, are more likely than not to fail.
This game, like the one with Armagh the Sunday before it, was there for the taking, but mistakes, many of the schoolboy variety, meant the offer was never likely to be accepted. The two Laois goals in the 2-8 to 0-11 reverse had Louth error written all over them. The penalty to be paid, however, wouldn’t have been as severe if it had been only a little better at the other end of the field.
Laois went in leading by five points, but by then were down to 14 following the dismissal of one of their goal-scorers, Conor Merideth, for an off-the-wall foul on Derek Crilly. There were signs of a Louth comeback, three early points and another two in reply to just one from Laois leaving the sides separated by the minimum with ten minutes remaining.
But then the awfulness of the Louth display, hinted at earlier in the game, really manifested itself. Shots from the simplest on angles were off-target, with even the normally ultra-reliable Paddy Keenan missing a free that would normally be easy pickings for him. And allied to the poor marksmanship was a surfeit of intercepted passes, as move after move got strangled though overuse of the ball.
Contrast Louth’s attacks on goal with the way in which Laois played when they were on top in the field half - straight and direct and moving with speed.
The only Louth player capable of matching the visitors was Gerry Hoey, on the field for only the second half. That the No 21 emerged as his side’s best player doesn’t speak too well for those who were there for the 70 minutes.
This is the first league campaign in a while that Louth were allotted four homes games out of the seven. Two of those are now played and with just one point on the board, chances of dodging a relegation dog-fight would have to be seen as remote.