Louth looking to strike right balance ahead of new campaign
Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30
During tonight's visit to Hawkfield to take on Kildare in the O'Byrne Cup, Colin Kelly will be looking for little signs his young Louth team are coming along.
The Wee County are very much in project mode now. The heart of the team that reached the Leinster final in 2010 has long since gone and in some ways, Louth are starting again.
Last year was Kelly's first year in charge and along the way they learned some hard lessons. But piece by piece they are trying to put things together.
"Those players are gone and they were great servants to Louth. But this is a new phase in Louth football so in a sense it is a project and a learning curve."
There is one area Louth and Kelly will look to improve on. Last year showed that, on their day, they could score but in suffering relegation from the third tier of the league, they conceded more than anyone else across the four divisions.
In their Leinster Championship exit at the hands of Westmeath, they were hit for 3-14. They would see off Leitrim in the back door but Tipp would run in 3-21 as Louth's season ground to a halt.
"It's about getting a happy medium between defence and attack," Kelly agreed.
"It's a bit of a double-edged sword. You have to be strong defensively but you have to be able to score too. You're not much of a team if you have good defenders but no forwards or the other way around. You have to defend as a team and attack as a team and everyone has to take responsibility for that."
Despite starting with a young team last year, there has been more turnover within their squad this time around.
Work commitments means a handful of players can't commit and Kelly is trying hard to equip the current squad with what they need to take on the rough and tumble of inter-county football.
"We're working away now and getting ready for the league," Kelly said. "It's been going well so far.
"We have good lads. Talent is one thing but the work ethic and lifestyle it takes to be a county footballer now . . . It's not easy.
"You can have a lad who is 11st and 19 years of age and you have to get him conditioned and strong enough to be like he was 23. We're working at that with the group."
Between the Sigerson Cup and county U-21s, there's about a dozen of his squad with other commitments but Kelly is hopeful they will be ready for the visit of London to Drogheda.
However, they are not looking too far down the road.
"We haven't set any targets. We haven't sat down and said, 'We need to be here in June or July' or anything like that," Kelly added.
"We're looking to get something out of the games we play and learn a little bit from all of them so we're not saying we need to do this or that."