Louth's Cathal Fleming in action against Wicklow last week. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Louth minors are in dire need of a victory over the old enemy, Meath, at the Gaelic Grounds tonight as anything but would likely end their dreams of a place in the Leinster last four.
Following last Wednesday's enthralling contest with Wicklow in Ardee, which ended in a draw, the Wee County's hopes of progression hang by a thread as they remain winless in their group.
Having put in a credible performance in the opening round loss to Dublin at Parnell Park, their aspirations of finishing in the top two, thus qualifying for a semi-final berth, relied upon disposing of the Garden County. But by conceding five goals and sacrificing a winning position late in the game, only to level at the death through Ryan Walsh, their fate is out of their own hands and a defeat tomorrow night would puncture their chances altogether.
Though fate could well be on their side. In 2011, the same year that Carlow defeated Louth at Portlaoise in the senior first round, the Wee County minors got over Meath - a feat they have failed to repeat in the seven years since, while, also in that campaign, they scored five goals in a match, with Laois having the leaky rear-guard. The Wee County had not reached that tally of majors in a match since then, prior to last week's goalfest.
But this challenge looks a lot more daunting considering Dublin - the competition favourites - who scored 3-15 against Louth in round one, albeit only pulling away in the final quarter, were defeated by the Royals in Navan on the same night of the 11-goal thriller in Ardee.
Consequently, Louth's Boyneside foes top the group, alongside Offaly, on four points and are in pole position to consolidate their group leadership credentials at the Gaelic Grounds.
Meath's full-forward line contributed 1-9 of their 1-13 total against the Dubs, while they rattled Westmeath for 2-20 in their opener. On the other hand, Louth's defence has been the costliest in the championship having conceded 8-27 in just the two encounters.
Realistically, Malcolm McDonnell and Tom Rooney's side face the possibility of having to travel to Westmeath in round four with nothing to play for bar pride, before finishing their campaign in Offaly. The rather underwhelming prospect at that point would be entering the secondary provincial competition while the four top guns perform in the knockout proper.
If Louth are to have any prospect of avoiding the inevitable, in the form of the Shield matches, then victory is imperative in Drogheda. For this, they will need captain Dáire Nally producing as diligently as he did last week, while their general play around the field will need to improve.
It looks a big ask, though Louth can cling onto the 2011 omen in preparing themselves.