Louth boss O'Rourke keeps rising star Burns in reserve
Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke has resisted the temptation to give rising star Ryan Burns a start against Kildare in Sunday's Leinster SFC quarter-final.
Burns (18) – who's taking his Leaving Cert exams this week – made a sensational impact when he came on as a late substitute against Westmeath, almost immediately scoring a goal that helped Louth get over the line in Mullingar.
There is no place for the schoolboy in Sunday's starting 15, but Burns and fellow Leaving Cert student Eoin Lafferty will be among the substitutes.
County stalwart Shane Lennon, who started at full-forward against Westmeath, will also be on the bench due to an ongoing hip problem which has flared up.
O'Rourke has reshuffled his forward line and given the No 14 jersey to Conor Grimes.
"Shane can have good weeks and bad weeks and this has been a bad week for him as he hasn't been able to train," said O'Rourke.
"Hopefully, by Sunday, it will have settled down and he will be able to contribute."
Lennon's last appearance at Croke Park was in July 2010 when Louth, controversially defeated by Meath in the Leinster final, were eliminated by Dublin in the qualifiers.
Louth's league performances were affected by injuries and they lost their Division 2 status. One of the reasons was a drop in scoring levels and Lennon feels that was a target for serious work between the end of the league and the Westmeath match.
"We knew we weren't scoring enough in the league campaign and we worked on getting more bodies forward," he said.
"We went from being one of the highest scoring teams last year to one of the lowest, so we knew that was going to be an issue. Thankfully enough we got enough scores to get over the line against Westmeath.
"They've a great home record in the championship down there so we were delighted to come out with the win."
Inevitably, questions arise as to whether Louth have 'got over' the infamous Leinster final of 2010 when Meath won a desperately close match, thanks to Joe Sheridan diving over the line with ball in hand. Four years on, Lennon assures us that they have.
"Every interview I do, I am asked about 2010. But it's over now. What happened, happened. We're definitely over it at this stage, there's no point living in the past," he said.
Louth may still be waiting to win a Leinster senior title for the first time since 1957, but they can still produce young talent such as Ciaran Byrne and Burns. That bodes well for the future.
Unfortunately for the Wee County, Byrne has been snapped up by AFL side Carlton. Lennon has seen Burns develop his talent over the last few years, as he's a Leinster GAA coach with Louth.
He added: "I've seen a lot of Ryan. He's a super athlete, and a good, nice quiet chap.
"Westmeath wouldn't have known that much about him. He's physically strong, well built, and he's well fit for adult football. He's definitely one for the future."