LOUTH are set to return to Croke Park at the end of the April where they will try to exorcise the demons of last year’s Leinster Final.
Call it luck, call it determination, call it what you will but Louth were promoted to Division Two of the Allianz Football League on Sunday.
After a dramatic day in the third tier of the league, Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick achieved one of his main aims for 2011 when he got Louth up to Division Two as his side beat Waterford and results elsewhere went their way.
Now, they will return to Croke Park for their first final at Headquarters since the events of July 11 last year. Approaching the game, Fitzpatrick and his squad know that they have to get the monkey off their backs sooner than later and clinch a trophy in a final.
Since Fitzpatrick took the reins of the Louth post, his side have contested two O’Byrne Cup Finals and a Leinster Final, losing all three of them, a statistic he is keen to break free from.
“We’ve been in three finals since I took over and we don’t want to lose a fourth final on the trot. We have to start winning finals and it would be a great boost to the lads if they did it before the Championship.”
Speaking after the game in Dungarvan, the Louth chief admitted that when he was appointed to the post, he brought a certain element of luck to the role. That luck has not been evident in finals so far, but it has played its part in getting them there.
“We did get a certain bit of luck, but in fairness, I think I am a very lucky individual and that luck rubs off on the team.”
It’s certainly hard to argue with that, but long may it continue as Louth can now look forward to a match with Westmeath on Saturday, April 23, which is expected to be played in Croke Park.
However it’s a fixture that looked unlikely on Sunday last as going into the Waterford game, Louth needed to beat the Deise. They also needed Limerick to derail the title challenge of Wexford and needed a clear winner from Westmeath and Offaly, something Fitzpatrick was all too aware of.
“We knew we would still be knocking on the door, if we won our match. The lads kept plugging away and I had complete faith in them winning the game.”
Fitzpatrick admitted the last three defeats, to Offaly, Limerick and Cavan were hard to take but there was no way they were prepared to lose a fourth on the trot.
“We knew we had a panel here good enough to get promoted from Division Three but Waterford were unlucky to lose to Offaly last week. They are a huge side, full of big physical lads. Division Three is very tough.
“We didn’t go up last year with eight points but did this year. We had opportunities to go up earlier but we didn’t take them. We knew if we weren’t promoted, we had ourselves to blame. The one thing I was positive about in the three defeats was the fact we worked until the end, creating chances. Even against Cavan, we could have won it in the end.”
For Fitzpatrick, it gives him another chance to evaluate his players ahead of the Championship game with Carlow on June 12.
“It’s a competitive game for us to plan for but we will be using this to get ready for the Carlow game. Our aim at the start of the year was to win promotion and get to the Leinster Final. We have one in the bag.”
Fitzpatrick also encouraged as many Louth fans as possible to make the trip to Dublin for league closer.
“It’s a great day out for Louth supporters, a trip to Croke Park in April is rare. It’s a final, that’s the way to look at it. We will try to pick up a trophy and then focus on Carlow in the Championship.”