Fitzpatrick lauds the performance of Carroll

LOUTH boss Peter Fitzpatrick initiated step one of his plan to rebuild his Louth team at McGeough Park on Sunday.

LOUTH boss Peter Fitzpatrick initiated step one of his plan to rebuild his Louth team at McGeough Park on Sunday.

With the National League campaign coming up in less than a month, Fitzpatrick cannot afford to mourn the loss of three seasoned players such as John O'Brien, Brian White and Mick Fanning.

Instead, he has started the rebuilding process as some old faces returned to the panel, along with some new ones.

Jimmy Murray, Alan Kirk, Gerard Hoey, Padraig Rath, Sean Connor and Jamie Carr all were given time on the pitch and the result was a win for Louth over All-Ireland finalists Down, something Fitzpatrick was pleased with.

"Before the game started, we were short a lot of players", said Fitzpatrick as Louth had only four subs on the day.

"I just told the lads to go out and give it 100%. All we want this year is commitment and please God, we will do well this year."

Since October, Louth's players have spent hours in the gym getting ready for the new season working on weights as they try to compete with their competitors in the strength department.

"We felt that last year, our upper body strength wasn't strong enough to play inter-county football", said Fitzpatrick.

"So over the last two months or so, the lads have been in the gym. We got a coach in there with them, Tony McParland, who has done a fantastic job with them.

"But in fairness, it's up to themselves and you see it here today, we were up against the finalists of an All-Ireland and Down had a terrific team out, it was a very sporting game. I was just delighted with the way we played the game today."

Fielding seven players that started the Leinster Final, Fitzpatrick knows there is more to come from his team in the weeks ahead as he tries to nail down a panel for the new year.

Fitzer is hoping to nail down a definite panel before the start of the National Football League opener which is the first weekend in February.

"We took in a few new lads such as Jimmy Murray, Alan Kirk. Them boys got stuck in.

"We know we lost three lads to Australia and what we are trying to do is fill the gaps at the moment.

"We knew that Down were going to be very fit and sharp and we told the lads just to hold them up and close them down. After that we settled and got four to five lovely points.

"At half time we threw on Jamie Carr, we threw on Gerard Hoey. I think it's terrific as we had a lot of lads missing today.

"We want to get ready for February 6 for the first game of the National League against Westmeath.

"We are in the O'Byrne Cup next Sunday and have a Challenge Match this Wednesday against Carlow IT in Darver.

"We're going to give fellas plenty of chances. The National League we are hoping to get promoted. We have no God given right to do it, but we will leave no stone unturned.

"We are going to do our best that we can and all the boys who play for Louth are people that want to play for Louth."

On the day though, it was Paddy Keenan's midfield partner Ronan Carroll that grabbed the attention as his fantastic display was lauded by spectators and the manager.

Carroll had only a bit part in Louth's campaign last year due to a number of injuries.

"Today it was fantastic to have Ronan Carroll back. With Brian White going to Australia, we are looking very hard to find a midfield partner for Paddy Keenan and today Ronan Carroll had a terrific match.

"Him and Paddy seemed to compliment each other.

"Last year, he was injury prone. The fella tried everything. For the last two to three months, he has been working very hard in the gym.

"I asked him last week, how was his fitness? He said, he felt 100%. He's a fantastic footballer with a brilliant attitude and that's the players you want to play for Louth."