LOUTH progressed to another O'Byrne Cup semi-final after fending off a spirited second half performance from Wicklow.
Mick O'Dwyer's charges went ahead as early in the first minute, but three minutes later, that lead was wiped out and it stayed that way for the remainder of the game.
As a contest, Louth could have had it all wrapped up come half time, but a penalty save, combined with a number of mishit free kicks and spurned one on one chances left Wicklow in with a chance as they only trailed by six points at the interval, 2-6 to 0-6.
The Garden County certainly came out flying in the second half but despite getting close to the men in white on several occasions, Louth had enough at their disposal to run out as deserving winners.
On the day, the performance would have both pleased Fitzpatrick and troubled him at the same time.
The first half, in particular was one he can take hope from.
Louth created a seemingly endless amount of opportunities, but their accuracy in front of the net is still a bit off as John Flynn kept Louth at bay in the Wicklow goalposts.
Being lethal in front of goal is not something to worry about in January, rather the latter months, but the pleasing aspect for Fitzpatrick and his team will be that his attack line, at this stage of the season, are capable of creating such chances.
As Fitzpatrick looks towards an assault on the National League, his forward line could be his most welcome headache as a number of players are vying for the six spots available.
Against Wicklow, the fluidity and movement of the two forward lines was a cut above and Wicklow's defence suffered as early as the fourth minute as Derek Maguire had the ball in the net, more than cancelling out Tony Hannon's opening point.
In a swift move, Lennon found Paraic Smith in front of goal.
Smith, who fired into the net last week against Athlone IT looked certain to go for goal, but unselfishly he deceived the 'keeper squaring it to Derek Maguire who fisted the ball with both hands into the net.
Maguire, a man who certainly wanted to forget his performance against Athlone IT, made amends as he increased Louth's lead later in the game with a second goal, followed by a point.
His impact certainly made an impression, as did that of Brian Donnelly and Derek Crilly who are doing their best to oust the Mattock Rangers duo of Adrian Reid and Mark Brennan from the half forward line.
Donnelly, who returned home from Adelaide Crows, looks to have found his rhythm in the number 12 shirt and is certainly at ease in front of goal as his three points showed, one coming in the sixth minute when he blasted over following good work from Shane Lennon.
The duo were involved minutes later as Donnelly was fouled by Alan Byrne just as he was about to pull the trigger for a shot on goal from the turf.
Lennon took on the responsibility and stepped up to take the spot kick.
He blasted the ball towards Flynn's left hand side, but the Garden County netminder guessed right and thwarted the Kilkerley Emmets man, who had a day to forget scoring wise.
Distribution wise was another story though as Lennon kept involved, running and playing neat through balls as he sucked in the Wicklow defence at every opportunity, creating space for Maguire, Smith. Donnelly, Crilly and McDonnell.
After Donnelly and Crilly pointed to put Louth further ahead, 1-5 to 0-4 Lennon showed his tendency to make things happen when he combined well with Ronan Carroll, releasing Maguire at the back post.
The Young Irelands forward had to take three bites at the cherry before he found some luck, as the ball ricocheted between him and Flynn, but in the end he did enough to find the roof of the net.
He followed it up with a sublime point from play before Niall Gaffney matched his effort. Tony Hannon ended the half as he started it with a score for Wicklow, leaving them six points behind at the break.
The second half showed a Louth side who are still a bit vulnerable at the back, but this type of fixture is something Fitzpatrick would have welcomed as his side coped with the pressure of a Wicklow onslaught
They handled the pressure, without capitulating, showing a sense of maturity that blighted them in the National League and Championship last year. It is that maturity that could make the difference between promotion or consolidation this year. Gerard Hoey, the Geraldines defender, showed his merits again for a place but for ten to 15 minutes in the second half, Louth were rocked as Wicklow came hurrying at them.
After three unanswered points, starting with one from substitute Conor McGraynor, followed by scores from Leighton Glynn and Gaffney, Fitzpatrick threw Adrian Reid into the mix.
The decision was a wise one as within ten seconds of his introduction, Reid had the ball over the bar, firing over after taking his first touch.
Ronan Carroll stormed the Wicklow defence, fisting the ball over after a daring drive forward, but Louth could not capitalise on this as Paul Earls and McGraynor cut Louth's lead to three points on the 50 minute mark.
Reid restored calm with another cool effort after Declan Byrne, brought on at centre half, did brilliantly to nick a loose ball into the path of the Collon man.
From there, it was Louth's game to lose and Ray Finnegan, showing his shooting prowess, crashed home a lethal volley from 50 metres, which was a contender for score of the day.
JP Rooney made his return to the panel, pointing from open play and from there, Louth finally got two free kicks over the bar.
First was Donnelly, who was itching to take a free all day. Mirroring Brian White, the Cooley man stroked the ball over effortlessly, before Lennon got in on the act, thumping a free over in anger after missing some earlier in the first half.
Free taking is something that concerned Fitzer on the day as five different players tried their luck at filling the boots of Brian White. They are still finding their range, but February 6 against Westmeath does not leave them with plenty of time to do so.
Louth will now face UCD in the semi-final next week and whilst free-taking may be a concern for Fitzpatrick, his team's abilities to create chances from open play certainly is not.
LOUTH: Derek Maguire, (2-1), Brian Donnelly, (0-3, 1f), Derek Crilly, Adrian Reid, both (0-2) Shane Lennon, (0-2, 1f), Ronan Carroll, Ray Finnegan, JP Rooney, all (0-1).
WICKLOW: Tony Hannon, (0-4, 1f), Seanie Furlong, (1-0), Niall Gaffney, Conor McGraynor (0-2), Darren Hayden, Paul Earls, Rory Finn, Leighton Gylnn, (0-1).
LOUTH: Neil Gallagher; Gerard Hoey, Aaron Hoey, Ronan Greene; Ray Finnegan, Dessie Finnegan, Stephen Fitzpatrick; Paddy Keenan, Ronan Carroll; Derek Crilly, Andy McDonnell, Brian Donnelly; Pauric Smith, Shane Lennon, Derek Maguire.
Subs: Adrian Reid for McDonnell, (45mins), JP Rooney for P Smith, (58mins).
WICKLOW: John Flynn; Ciaran Hyland, Alan Nolan, Alan Byrne; Paul Cunningham, Stephen Kelly, Anthony McLoughlin; Rory Finn, Niall Gaffney; Darren Hayden, Paul Earls, Paddy Dalton; Dean Odlum, Tony Hannon Dean Siney. Subs: Leighton Glynn for Odlum (28mins), Conor McGraynor for D Siney (H/T), Seanie Furlong for D Hayden (H/T), Stephen Canavan for P Cunningham (56). Wides: LOUTH 5 (2 first half), Wicklow 7 (4 first half).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).