Lennon respects O'Byrne Cup
Kilkerley star relishing free-taking responsibilities
By Gary McLaughlin
FOR the third consecutive year, Louth will contest the O'Byrne Cup final when they face Kieran McGeeney's Kildare on Sunday in Newbridge.
Last year, in the Leinster Senior Championship, Louth produced one of the best displays in their history when they dumped Kildare out of the competition, a day Shane Lennon certainly remembers.
Now the full-forward is hoping for a similar result this Sunday as he looks to capture the O'Byrne Cup for the second time, a competition he has a great affinity for.
"I know some people say it's only the O'Byrne Cup, but a Louth and Kildare final shows you how serious teams are taking it now and with the possibility of a Dublin and Meath Shield final, it shows the respect the competition is getting.
"A final creates a buzz around training for us and now hopefully we can do it on Sunday."
The last time Louth won the O'Byrne Cup, back in 2009 when they beat DCU, Lennon was the captain that day.
"It was an honour that day to captain the team and lift the cup. When Paddy Keenan picked up the McGeough Cup earlier this year after beating Down, he said that hopefully it won't be the last piece of silverware he picks up this year and we all hope that."
Peter Fitzpatrick's men faced Kildare twice last year and emerged victorious in outings against the Lilywhites in the O'Byrne Cup and the Championship. The second occasion, at Pirc Tailteann in the Championship is one that Lennon certainly remembers as it was his first game after the Longford match, where he tore the tendons in his thumb.
All eyes were on the full-forward for the first ten minutes against Kildare and he responded to the speculation in spectacular fashion, hitting the opening point and scoring 0-4 in total.
"If I play the way I did that day, it wouldn't be so bad", said Lennon.
"I've been struggling with my form over the last number of weeks, but on Sunday, I thought I was more involved. The shooting is still not quite there, but this is the time of the year to work on it.
"They (Kildare) could be looking for revenge after the Championship last year, we do not know. We are looking forward to it.
"They will be like ourselves, firing on all cylinders, getting ready for their first league game and we are all fighting for our places.
"We know that Kieran McGeeney will want to win every game put in front of him, the same with Peter. I've been on Louth teams were we were on a bit of a losing streak, it's not fun so we want to go into the National League undefeated so far."
Against UCD on Sunday, Louth let slip a nine point lead and only won the game with the last kick of the ball, a point from Ronan Carroll, but Lennon thinks the tough 70-minute contest did his team the world of good.
"UCD were flying, they worked hard over Christmas and were ready for us. In a way it was more beneficial for us the way they came back into the game on Sunday.
"I know it did not seem great for the fans watching, but UCD has some very good players and about eight or nine county players. They are hosting the Sigerson Cup this year, with hopes of winning it so that tells you how good they are."
The full forward has also found himself with new responsibilities this year as he tries to fill Brian White's boots in the free-taking department, a task he is enjoying at the moment.
"Free taking is tough. Brian's a massive loss, but so far, Peter has said to me that he wants me to hit the frees so I am happy enough to take them.
"He said he will get a few of the other lads will get a go, but right now I am enjoying it.
"I know I've missed a few and that is something we have to work on, be more potent in front of goal, so we will work on that this week and next."