Louth's Gerard Smyth. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Louth hurlers face Longford at Pearse Park on Saturday afternoon seeking to claim their second competitive victory under new manager Paul McCormack.
The Reds overcame DCU St. Patrick’s by nine points pre-Christmas and meet the Midlanders seeking to book a place in the inaugural Kehoe Shield final.
So long as they avoid an 11-point or more defeat, the Reds will be in the decider; against DCU if they win or draw, with Longford knowing victory would ensure them of a final berth on Sunday week.
Longford suffered a reverse to the students in round one, but will enter this contest confident of making it three wins over Louth in four clashes - they prevailed in their Kehoe Cup and Nicky Rackard Cup meetings in 2018, either side of the Wee County’s claiming of the teams’ league fixture.
McCormack used the DCU affair to blood several youngsters, including Pádraig Fallon and Darren Geoghegan - both products of Naomh Moninne’s well- organised juvenile structure. However, it was the experienced campaigners who shone, captain on the night Gerard Smyth and Knockbridge’s David Kettle (below), in particular.
And the former sees the Longford game as another opportunity to show their progress under the new management regime.
“The Longford game is definitely about showing improvement and that what we’re doing in training is benefitting everyone,” Smyth said.
“It’s also about the management getting to see as many different players as possible and getting to know where on the field lads are best suited.
“In the two games leading up to Christmas we played multiple combinations across all lines of the field, trying to find where lads are comfortable and what strengths in what areas we have and how to best utilise those.
“So far we’re happy with the progress that we’re making and in parts of training and matches the ideas are starting to click. It’s about sustaining that for 70-plus minutes.
“At the minute, we’re working hard on creating a good team spirit and cohesion in games.”
Ultimately, however, the priority is about getting themselves in the position required to handle Roscommon’s challenge in the opening round of the National League, Division 3A, at the end of the month.
“Panel-wise, we’re in good shape, we’ve got a good few sessions into lads and more have come back into the fold from previous years with a good mix of young lads too.
“The goal is still January 27 and improving towards the Roscommon game and as long as we continue to do that we’ll be happy.”