Fitzer had faith in young gun O'Connor

Fitzer had faith in young gun O'Connor

Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick knew that substitute Danny O'Connor, the scorer of their match-winning goal against Westmeath, had it in him to make a difference in yesterday's Leinster SFC opener.

Such was the form of the young St. Patrick's clubman in training that Fitzpatrick had to turn to the 21-year-old debutant as Louth stared at a first round defeat.

Westmeath battled back from the concession of Ronan Carroll's 27th-minute goal to take the lead in the second half and they were still 0-14 to 1-9 ahead when O'Connor poked home his decisive injury-time goal.

Speaking after the dramatic win in Navan, Fitzpatrick explained: "Danny has been training with the panel for the last five weeks. We went to Bundoran last week for a training weekend and he was probably the outstanding forward there.

"So, we knew all about him. But it's still very hard for a lad of 21 to come into a game like that and make a mark but he did fantastically well."

O'Connor was not part of Louth's plans for the recent Allianz League campaign, however he was called up after emigration and injuries took their toll on the Wee County panel.

The delighted forward beamed: "It's the stuff of dreams! We mightn't have deserved the win but it's the never-say-die attitude that we've spoken about the last few weeks in training.

"It doesn't matter how much we win by once we get there in the end and that's what we did."

Louth hardly put their best foot forward yesterday afternoon, struggling at times to contain a fast-breaking Westmeath side and the losers' wides tally of 13 was arguably just as influential as the Louth goals.

They also hit the crossbar through substitute Callum McCormack in the 69th minute and a goal then would have guaranteed the midlanders' passage through to a June 3 clash with Dublin.

But Louth prevailed in the end thanks to O'Connor's goal, with the ball breaking to him after a charging run from Carroll. It left Westmeath boss Pat Flanagan to reflect on what might have been.

Facing up to a five-week break before the All-Ireland qualifiers, Flanagan said: "It is extremely difficult when you consider that this team is only developing. We have new players from last year and we've lost all of the older players.

"We worked extremely hard to stay in Division 2 in the league and we got that. The whole emphasis then turned to this match and making sure we got the win.

"I can't fault the boys, they played exceptionally well. We hit the crossbar, and then a few minutes later they score with a toe-poke of a goal.

"We're now out of the Leinster Championship and that's very difficult to take. That's football, now we have to see if we can pick the boys up and get a few games in the qualifiers."

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