O'Rourke insists full-strength Louth will be 'hard to talk to'
LOUTH signed off their three-year stint in Division 2 with a narrow defeat to neighbours Meath on Sunday, but Aidan O'Rourke saw enough to suggest his team may be ready to turn a corner over the next six weeks.
The Reds chief was bitterly disappointed not to have held out for a first win of the campaign against the Royals in Sunday's derby tussle, but he insisted that with a full squad to pick from and five weeks on the training pitch behind them, his troops can resurrect their season agianst Westmeath on May 17th.
'There's nothing we can change with regard to the League now, and we've six weeks to prepare for the Championship,' he said after Sunday's defeat. 'The lads will go back to their clubs for a week now to prepare for the first round on Sunday and that leaves us with five weeks after that to prepare for Westmeath.
'Obviously playing Division 1 opposition in the first round is a big task, but it's something we're looking forward to.
'We've seen signs in the League that we're capable of getting back to where we were last year and hopefully well beyond that, so we just have to focus minds and if we get our injured players back on the field we'll be hard to talk to.'
Meath found their hosts a lot harder to 'talk to' than most this season as Louth finally pieced together a full 70-minute performance, but O'Rourke was disappointed that they didn't push on for victory when they opened a three-point cushion midway through the second-half.
'Maybe later in the week when we look at the DVD we'll be a happier, but at the minute the impression is that we dominated the game for long periods and created a lot of scoring chances and didn't take enough of them.
'Meath were much more efficient in front of goal and they took nearly every chance that came their way, although they kicked a couple of wides in the second-half.
'I'm very happy with their application and how hard they worked, and the only thing missing was the finishing touch.
'The last ball was poor at times, or we fumbled the last pass and kicked some inexplicable wides. We know we can produce the intensity, so now the question is can we add the bit of quality that we know is in there.
'We asked them that no matter what way the game was going that they apply themselves for the 70 minutes and we couldn't fault them on that.
'On another day if we had taken half the chances we missed we would have won comfortably.
'We still created three or four chances to get something out of the game after the goal, so it was very disappointing not to take any of them.
'The majority of the scores we squandered were in the first-half, perhaps moreso with our final ball costing us goal chances and making easy chances difficult. There's no question that's an area we have to look at for improvement.
'But we created the chances, and we overran them in midfield and dominated the breaks, there all things we haven't been doing.
'If nothing else we proved to ourselves that we're capable of reaching those levels.
'We're better conditioned than we were this time last year, so we just need to add the quality that we know is bubbling under the surface.'
It looked ominous for Louth when Meath turned around to take advantage of a gale force wind just a point in arrears. They kicked the first three points of the second period, but O'Rourke wasn't overly concerned.
'I didn't think they were going to get away from us, they weren't getting enough ball.
'Certainly in that seven or eight minutes of the second-half they were more efficient with the ball they had, but every time we broke up the field, we were very very dangerous and they had a lot of difficulty dealing with us coming through the middle.
'The penalty was just deserts, but we were disappointed not to push on after that. We had a lot of chances in that period that we didn't take and that allowed them to stay in touch with us.
'These lads are very good with their backs to the wall and some of the defending just after the goal when Meath were trying to finish the game was superb.
'You couldn't fault the defence at all and it was probably composure up front that beat us. Wild shots, too many passes and trying to force goals; all things you wouldn't associate with our lads in the final third, so it's something we will have to look at.'
O'Rourke's main concern now is to get his walking wounded back for the trip to Mullingar. Dessie Finnegan missed out on Sunday after picking up a knock in training on Thursday, while Colm Judge and Derek Maguire have been ruled out with longer term ankle injuries.
On the plus side Shane Lennon got another 70 minutes under his belt and Mick Fanning made his first start of the season after coming on against Donegal in Ballyshannon.