Louth made a faltering start to last season’s Division Two, beaten by Westmeath. The game was at Mullingar’s Cusack Park, and having led by five points at one stage in the second half, the Reds went down by 0-16 to 2-9, conceding three of the game’s last four scores.
That trend was to continue throughout the year, good leads being squandered, most notably in the All-Ireland qualifier with Kildare at Newbridge. But there were also some good winning performances, enough of them to make Division Two status safe and have us believe for just a while there could be significant progress in the championship.
The home win over Galway, and Armagh City defeat of the Applemen, and a hard-earned point from the away meeting with Laois were solid league performances - and when the O’Moore men were next encountered, this time in the knock-out with Portlaoise again the venue, all that had gone before, even the very best of it, was surpassed.
Louth’s lead in the championship second round match with Wexford was never more than a couple of points, but was still squandered. There was more on the credit side for the following game in Newbridge; somehow, Kildare found a way back.
The first of 2014’s games with a real competitive edge to it was in the opening round of the league. Armagh were visitors to Drogheda, and for 50 minutes were on the back foot. It was particularly bad for Paul Grimley’s side when they trailed by nine points, the game having moved into the second-half.
Aidan O’Rourke made changes that weren’t absolutely necessary, and in the end Louth had to be content with a share of the spoils when, really, it should have been a winning day.
Next up, on the following Sunday, was a renewal of hostilities with Laois, and again Louth largesse was in evidence, the visitors, down to 14, being allowed take charge in the last quarter.
In neither of those games was O’Rourke able to field his preferred 15, injury to key players leaving him with no alternative but to look to the wider panel. Shane Lennon won’t be ready for Saturday night’s game with Down in Newry; the championship joust with Westmeath is being targeted for his return. But others who’ve been on the sick-bay, John O’Brien, Brian White and Derek Crilly, may be ready for the fray, and who knows, Darren Clarke could get a nod. All are needed.
Louth’s record of one point from four compares to Down’s three from four. The Mournes have been defending reasonably well, but have been doing no better than Louth up front, each team boasting an aggregate 27 points.
This is a crunch tie for Louth. Win and they have room to breathe, lose and the wolves get that bit closer to the door. High-flying Monaghan are listed for the Sunday of the following week.