Fitzpatrick laments Wee County exodus
LOUTH manager Peter Fitzpatrick has already outlined his goals for the 2011 season but he'll have to plan without three of the side that started this year's ill-fated Leinster final.
Free-taker and midfielder Brian White as well as defensive pair John O'Brien and Michael Fanning are set to move to Australia in the coming weeks, while another six of Fitzpatrick's squad are without work heading into the 2011 campaign.
"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "Those three lads are leaving and there's not much we can do about that but we have another six lads on the panel that we are trying to find work for.
"These are lads have degrees and trades and skills but they are being hit hard by the economic climate. We've been in contact with companies all around the county trying to find work for them but it's very difficult."
Full-forward Shane Lennon will be available after securing work as a GAA coach, which comes as a boost and Fitzpatrick believes his side will need to play their league football in a higher division if they are to progress.
"We want to get out of Division 3 and get back to a Leinster final. We have to be positive and aim high. There's no reason we can't kick on after last year," he said.
Fitzpatrick insists the events of the Leinster final have long been parked but he could have been forgiven a wry grin during a recent team trip to New York. Louth played New York in a challenge game which ended in a draw -- after the hosts bagged a goal with just seconds to go.
"We used the trip as a team-building exercise. The lads were blaming me for the (late) goal because I came on with a few minutes to go but it means I'm the oldest man ever to play for Louth," he joked.
"We had a good year last year. No one wanted the job when I took over. People said we were mad when we set a Leinster final as our target.
"We had five games in the championship and we were at Croke Park a few times and we got to the Leinster final.
"Dublin beat us and they weren't far away from an All-Ireland final and we beat Kildare and they went on to have a good season too. They are the teams we can compete with.
"Look, what happened (in the Leinster final) won't be forgotten but it is very much in the past. We hold no ill-feeling towards Meath at all.
"We have a good relationship with them and I wished Seamus McEnaney well when he got the job.
"Apart from anything else, inexperience cost us that game so we'll have to learn the lesson and come back from it."
Fitzpatrick insists there is plenty of talent in the Wee County and will look to his Leinster junior championship-winning side to bolster his squad in the wake of recent defections.
"It was my intention all along to run that as a Louth 'B' team and they did very well. They lost narrowly to Sligo in an All-Ireland semi-final and they beat Kerry in the final.
"It was a great experience for them and it's a good standard of football to bring fellas on. A lot of those players are under 21 years of age as well so they'll keep improving."
The county panel have their conditioning programmes and after noticing some talent in the club championships, Fitzpatrick intends to run trials to make sure he has the best possible squad available.
"We're looking forward to this year. We're on the same side of the draw with Carlow, Wexford, Westmeath and Offaly. After our run last year, every one of those teams will fancy their chances to make a Leinster final and that's the way we are going to look at it," he added.
"It's a great opportunity to get back to where we were this year. The players are good enough."