Kelly demands reality check after 'heart ripped out' of Louth team
Louth manager Colin Kelly has called for a reality check about the Wee County's prospects as he prepares the team for tomorrow's Leinster SFC opener against Westmeath in Drogheda.
The five years since Louth came agonisingly close to winning a Leinster title for the first time since 1957 have flown by, yet a cohort of followers want to see the county reaching provincial deciders on a regular basis.
Louth fans are still haunted by their controversial defeat to Meath in the 2010 Leinster final, when referee Martin Sludden allowed Joe Sheridan's decisive injury-time goal to stand, despite the Royals forward clearly carrying the ball over the line.
That, however, is an argument that remains in the history books.
Kelly is working with the present day circumstances in which Louth operate.
Those circumstances dictate that following relegation to Division 3 and a host of retirements, Leinster final appearances and Division 1 football must remain a lofty aspiration.
Kelly's only focus is on the clash with Westmeath, another side that struggled in the League and were demoted from Division 2.
"There is some negativity around the place from an element of supporters who still believe that Leinster finals are achievable, and why aren't we going to Croke Park and beating Dublin?" said the manager.
"But the reality of it is that the heart has been ripped out of the team, and that's no disrespect to the young lads that are coming in. Transformation takes time.
"We've lost seven starters in fellas like Paddy Keenan, Shane Lennon, Andy McDonnell, Brian White, John O'Brien, Mick Fanning. . . fellas of that calibre.
"You're talking about midfielders, centre-back, full-forward - the whole spine of your team.
"You can dwell on it and be negative or you can get on with the job, and that's what we've done.
"We've tried to be as positive as we can and not accept second best. Unfortunately we weren't good enough in the National League but now it's about righting the wrongs, so it will be a big test for us," said Kelly.
Kelly and Westmeath counterpart Tom Cribbin are both in their first year at the helm, so last year's championship clash in which Louth defeated the Lake County has no relevance for them.
Wexford await the winners of tomorrow's match in the quarter-final on June 14 and Kelly feels that a victory by any margin in Drogheda would represent significant progress.
"For us it's about Westmeath. We need to get over that challenge first. Then we have to look to Wexford," he said.
"One win would do wonders for the team."
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