Belief the key for bullish Fitzpatrick as Wee County relish big occasion

IT is 53 years since Louth last claimed a senior Leinster title but there will be no sense of inferiority this Sunday when they face Meath in the 2010 provincial final. Not if Peter Fitzpatrick has anything to do with it.

The Louth manager faced his neighbours many a time in the course of his own career but a routine query about his experiences in those games is swatted away dismissively. History is exactly that, according to Fitzpatrick. History.

A relatively innocent remark about the potency of Meath’s forward line is dealt with just as abruptly. “If you think Meath’s forwards are good, wait until you see ours,” he said. “I’d rather be involved with our team than Meath’s.”

No, Louth will not be tip-toeing apologetically into Croke Park on Sunday, doffing their cap to their near neighbours and accepted football aristocrats even if they are listed as 4-1 to overcome the Royals.

“The thing is, this team is starting to believe in themselves. This team has been around for the last four or five years and I just don’t think they realise how good they are. The training they done, no matter what we asked them to do, they done it.

“Right down the middle – from Neil Gallagher to Dessie Finnegan to Michael Fanning, the two boys in the middle of the field Brian (White) and Paddy (Keenan) and our 40 yards man Andy McDonnell and Shane Lennon – we have a great core of players.”

Thrown into the mix on Sunday will be an estimated 30,000 Louth supporters streaming down the M1 towards the capital but the buzz in the county is already reaching fever pitch.

“We will be looking at it as just another game,” said their manager. “The way we look at is is that these guys wouldn’t understand about the history of it. All these boys want to do is play football and, to me, it is just another game.”

“I know it is a big occasion but the occasion will come afterwards. The most important thing is the game.

Fitzpatrick’s approach is an understandable one. Deal with the occasion by ignoring it, by convincing yourself and your team that Sunday will be no different to the countless other days when they have pulled on the red jersey and done battle.

“This is our fourth game of the championship and there is no change on the focus at all. For the Longford match, people didn’t understand. For me, the hardest game I had this year was against Longford.

“The first game is always the hardest to cross. No-one really rated Longford and then you see the way they played against Mayo.

“The next step then was against Kildare and they raised it that day. Then it was Westmeath and that was a tough enough game.

“It was a semi-final of a Leinster championship. It was new territory for us. It was an opportunity to get to a provincial final and, in fairness to the boys, they came through with flying colours.”


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