AFTER an Annus Horribilis in 2010, Louth midfielder Ronan Carroll is eyeing up Brian White's midfield spot in 2011.
Carroll staked his claim in impressive fashion on Sunday against Down as he chipped in with three points in Louth's 0-16 to 0-11 win over last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists to lift the McGeough Cup.
Not only that, but Carroll was the stand-out performer for the Wee County as he complimented Louth captain Paddy Keenan in the engine room.
Against Dublin last February, Carroll hobbled off the pitch at Carton House after just 25 minutes. He made his return in March against Cavan and further aggravated a back injury. That time he lasted 20 minutes.
Since then, Carroll was limited to the bench and made his return as a second half substitute in Louth's All-Ireland qualifier against Dublin.
It was a frustrating year for the St Mary's man as he watched Louth's Leinster Championship odyssey unfold from the sidelines.
Now though, he is ready to fill the number nine jersey left behind by Brian White, who is departing for Australia on Monday.
Speaking after the Down game, Carroll said: "It's going to take a while to get back into the swing of things, but hopefully my back stays clear and I can hopefully fill in for Brian White this year.
"He's going to be hard to replace, but I will try my best."
Admitting last year was difficult, Carroll added that he spent the winter months in the gym, as all GAA teams were on a training ban, something he did not mind.
"Well I needed to get into the gym and work on my back so I was happy enough to stay away from the field and slogging in the winter, nobody really likes to do it, but we will be back Tuesday and we will know all about it then.
"Personally I just want to stay injury free and get back playing again. It was very frustrating last year. Overall in terms of the team, we want to push on in the league. The Westmeath game is the one. After that we will know where we are. If we get a win there, it will set us up nicely and after that, we will take it game by game."
Against Down, Carroll was delighted with Louth's performance seeing as though it was their first game of the year.
"We pushed hard, we worked hard and hopefully we can improve now coming into the O'Byrne Cup and then push on with the Westmeath game come the start of the league.
"We had a few new faces in the squad and it was good to see Jimmy Murray, Jamie Carr and Gerard Hoey back in the squad and a few new faces like Alan Kirk.
"It's good to have options there and hopefully these boys can come in this season and push with us for places.
"The stronger panel we have the better chances we have this year."
Next up for Carroll will be Carlow IT in a Challenge Match this Wednesday in Darver, but after that Louth will open their season competitively by facing Athlone IT in the first round of the O'Byrne Cup this Sunday at 2pm in Drogheda, a game Carroll is looking forward to.
"I would not know too much about Athlone IT, but the colleges have been training for the last couple of months. They have been training hard.
"They know each other as they are getting ready for Sigerson Cups and the likes of that. They will probably gel better than us but hopefully we will have too much power for them."
One thing Carroll does insist is that Louth will take the game seriously on Sunday as they are using it to get ready for their February 6, National League opener against Westmeath.
"It's more or less building the fitness, trying a few new things or new faces and see if we can bring them on into the league.
"At the end of the day, it's competitive football and better than playing a training game amongst ourselves.
"It's good to get a competitive game and get the fans out and hopefully win it like we did before."
Ronan Carroll in
action against Down