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26 May 2022

Mickey Harte staying grounded as Louth look to shock fancied Kildare outfit

Mickey Harte reflects on character building win in Limerick

Louth GAA manager Mickey Harte. (Pic: Sportsfile)

And with a bang, Louth have begun their Leinster Championship. Carlow brushed aside with ease as Mickey Harte got his first taste of a real victory with his new team. And he will have hardly had easier days, even when Tryone was at their peak, then on Sunday in Navan.

But while the Wee County managed to grab five goals and won in the end by a comprehensive margin of 15 points that certainly had the large traveling support happy, the former All Ireland winner was a lot more pragmatic about the real nature of his side’s performance.  

“Overall we were disappointed with the performance in many aspects” stated Harte. “That's a strange thing to say when you win by five goals, but I felt with the breeze we overplayed the ball a bit and got turned over far too often.

“I think they'd have been very happy at half-time having played against a strong breeze to have been in touching distance. In the second half, while we were quite creative and produced a good few scoring opportunities, we probably didn't take quite as many as we could have early in the game.

“The last ten minutes wasn’t a true reflection of the effort Carlow were putting in, I think it was a pity for them that the real scores took us away from them, as they were holding up pretty good up to that point.” 

The final 10 minutes, when Mulroy struck the net twice was what created such a big cushion by the final whistle. While earlier in the game they came the way Ciaran Byrne and Conor Grimes. Creating these deficits meant Carlow had to try and fight back which ultimately suited the Wee County.

“If you don't concede goals when you have a decent lead, you're in a good position” he noted. “If you can defend it and have numbers to defend it, they have to attack you in numbers.

“And then you have green grass ahead when you turn the ball over. The likelihood is that you can get other good chances then. They had to come out because of the gap and in a way that was a good for us.”

Another good note to come out of the tie was the management got the opportunity to see what their bench was made of in the cut throat world that is championship football.

Ciaran Keenan, Tom Jackson, Leonard Grey and Gerard Browne all got the chance to showcase what they can do when given the chance on the field and Harte is delighted to see his whole squad prospering this year.

“We've played competitive football and have been regularly since the league started. It's nice to be in that position where you can give boys game-time and the boys who were coming in weren't making us any weaker and that's the good thing.

“If we were going in and saying, 'these boys are not fit for this' that would be a worry. When they came in, they got involved and tried to get into the game as much as they could. I think that's good.”

Of course, things don’t get any easier for Louth, who now face into what is certainly their biggest hurdle of the year so far. This Sunday in O’Connor Park Tullamore (throw in 4PM) they face into a highly fancied Kildare side with serious ambitions of dethroning Dublin as provincial champions.

But the wily veteran is well used to riling a team up for a big game and making sure he gets every last bit of energy and commitment out of every player he works with.

He knows they will need to bring Louth up to a higher level then ever before to be competitive against the Lilywhites and certainly perform much better then in Navan. Nine wides, a series of efforts dropped short and 18 frees conceded showing just some of the areas that need improvement.

But regardless of the result Harte is excited to see how exactly they match up to the Lilywhites, after Sunday’s showing all in attendance will know just how large the gap is between the top teams and Louth.

“We can't afford to make the number of unforced errors that we did today. If we have a breeze like that, we really need to be more efficient.

“This is a different league we're in now and we understand that. They're playing regularly in Division 1 and if they've been in Division 2, they don't hang about too long. 

There's a gulf in class at the moment and our aim is to see how narrow is that gulf. If we can keep that narrow, then we give ourselves a fighting chance, whereas if we're sloppy, we'll pay the price. 

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