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24/09/2021

Louth Hurlers put it all on the line in Do or Die clash with Cavan

'Competition is rife for places' among Louth hurlers, says manager Paul McCormack

Louth Hurling manager Paul McCormack. Pic: Arthur Kinahan

Louth Hurling has really been on the up over the past 12 months; they are the reigning Lory Meagher Cup champions and already secured silverware in 2021 when landing the Division 3B National crown to dubious scenes in Darver.

Retaining the Lory Meagher is something no county has ever done in the short history of the competition, albeit because in any year outside of Covid-19 their would’ve also gained promotion to the Nicky Rackard Cup.

Nonetheless history still beckons for The Wee County who compete at this level once more, and after bouncing back from a heavy loss to Longford with a win over Monaghan the spirit in the camp have certainly been lifted. On Saturday (Throw in 2:15 PM) in Breffni Park they face Cavan with a place in the Lory Meagher Cup Final on the line.

Their manager Paul McCormack feels his side is now battled hardened and goes into this weekend’s semi-final clash against Cavan bursting with confidence.

“We hit a bit of a bump against Longford, but we quantified that by the fact they needed to win that match more than anything” recalled the Armagh native. “We had a few changes on the day, a mix of injuries as well as wanting to see what players are like.”

“In that sense it was a big plus to get the win against Monaghan, I think the league stood to us in that regard. The games against Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim were tough, physical games and we learnt a lot about ourselves from those encounters.”

“We build up a bit resilience, showed character in those games. Yes, the games have gotten that bit more difficult, but I felt we have met that challenge so far and there is no doubt that the next game it is all on the line again against Cavan.”

The Breffni County have become regular opponent’s for the Men in Red, having collided in this year’s National League as well as at this stage of the championship last season.

Both of those games went down to the wire, Louth needing to hang on for dear life as the Ulster men fought back only to lose out by 1-15 to 0-16. Louth led by six points at half time only to go 20 minutes without a score.

Meanwhile in their most recent meeting in the National League earlier this year it was another hum dinger where no more than three points ever separated the sides.

They were level at both half time and on the stroke of full time before Darren Geoghegan sealed the win in dramatic fashion from a difficult free, 0-19 to 2-12.

McCormack is well aware of their challenge and expects Cavan to bring the fight to Louth once more, however he feels they have the tools to once more put them to the sword.

“Cavan are a big, physical team. They’ve got the three guys playing for Cuala in Dublin, they are very good and smart hurlers who really complement Cavan. They are also strong throughout the team in the air. We have things that we need to work on and try an implement to negate their strengths.”

“But I firmly believe that if we can get our performances right, focus on ourselves and the qualities that we have and try and get those going while bringing the same intensity, work rate and amplification as we did to the Monaghan game then we are in with a good chance.”

The Wee County may have a win and loss on their record so far, but one thing that has gone hand in hand this year has been their ability to put up a high score. 3-19 against Longford was followed by 3-15 against Monaghan.

While the Former All Ireland winning footballer has been delighted with his side notching up so many goals, what he is trying to drive most into his players is to keep the scoreboard constantly ticking and become less wasteful with their chances.

“Goals are very much important, but we just want to keep the scoreboard ticking at all times. We are trying to convert more of our opportunities, you look at other games and you can see you’re probably going to need 24 plus points to win matches, if you do that you’re in with a real chance.”

“We hit 3-19 against Longford, a lot of people were looking at the Longford score, but we focused in on our tally and even that day we left a few behind us. We are still working on that to try and fine tune some of our chances.”

“We are getting loads of balls into our forwards. It is just about being more ruthless in front of goals, keep the scoreboard going, whether that’s goals or a point that will be our aim on Saturday.”

Louth will go into the game with a relatively clean bill of health for the make-or-break game in Cavan, with their preparations enhanced by having the support of all in Louth GAA who have been happy to rearrange some club fixtures to give them the best chance of reaching HQ for a second year in a row.

“We’ve picked up a few niggles in training following the Monaghan game and also from a few club football fixtures. We’ve had great support from the county board who have called off matches involving dual players last weekend.”

“That is a great statement in itself, in terms of showing their full backing is behind us and that allows us to hopefully get ourselves ready with a clean bill of health so it is much appreciated by the management team and the players themselves.”

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