IF there’s one player in the Louth squad that knows how important a good start to the Allianz League is, it’s Aaron Hoey.
The St Brides player marked his 150th appearance in a Louth shirt on Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup Final defeat to Kildare. Now though, he is eyeing up more appearances in what he hopes is a successful league campaign.
Having tasted league success in Division Two in 2000 and 2006, Hoey - the team’s veteran - knows that a good start is absolutely crucial.
“A good start is massively importantly”, he said.
“If you win your first two or three games, it will set you up for the rest of the league campaign and you have the momentum behind you.”
On the flip side of that, Hoey knows that a loss could push the side in a different direction altogether.
“But if you lose your opening game and the next one, it can put serious pressure on the team and that pressure can go either way, with you or against you.”
Reaching the milestone on Sunday was a significant moment for Hoey as it put him on 150 appearances. He is second in the list of all-time appearances in a Louth shirt, 29 behind Stephen Melia, who has 179.
However the Brides man had his focus on the game, rather than the personal milestone.
“It felt no different to be honest. It was nice to get to the milestone on the day, but unfortunately the result did not go the right way. I thought they got a dodgy penalty, I don’t know, but they got it.”
Coming into the game, Hoey was reminded of the milestone by a former manager of his, Paddy Clarke.
“I knew it was coming up thanks to Paddy Clarke. He’s a great man for statistics, he does a great job with them so he let me know.”
On Sunday last, Louth faced stiff opposition in the form of Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare, a test Hoey and co were thankful for, even if they came up short, losing the game 3-9 to 2-9.
“It was great to get a game on Sunday against a team like Kildare. They play in a higher division than us so it was good as we had to make the step up ourselves on the day.”
He added: “At the moment, we are probably a a bit behind them fitness wise, so that’s something where we need to get to. We will work hard at it in training and get there soon.”
In his 16th season as a Louth player, Hoey has now worn nine different numbered jerseys for the red and white of Louth; numbers three, four, five, six, seven, ten, eleven, thirteen and fourteen.
Right now, he is currently togging out wearing the number three shirt at full-back, a role he is enjoying.
“I’m delighted to be in the starting 15. I’m feeling fine at the moment, I have no injuries and it’s just nice to be playing.
“Last year, I spent a lot of time on the bench and you feel the games just pass you by, so it’s great to be involved.
“I’ve played nearly everywhere, but the full-back role is tough. It’s not a nice position as if something goes wrong, you are in the firing line as the line man in defence. But I don’t mind playing. I’ll play anywhere Peter picks me to play.”
In 16 years, Hoey has been part of some tremendous squads, but he rates the current crop as one of the best he’s ever seen.
“It’s a very talented squad of players. It’s certainly one of the most talented squads I’ve ever been involved with. The likes of Mark Brennan, Andy McDonnell and Paddy Keenan to name a few are very talented lads. I’m delighted to be part of it.”