Saturday 24 March 2018

Composure and conditioning in need of attention

John Savage

SUMMING up a game that his team bossed for long periods, but ultimately failed to close out has become familiar territory for Aidan O'Rourke and the recent clash with Kildare was no different.

'We built the platform and put ourselves into a position to win the game, but ultimately it's very frustrating when you do that and don't convert,' he said after an exhilarating contest.

'At half-time we felt we were in a very strong position. Then we started the second half well and pushed on, and when it went out to four points Kildare heads looked to be dropping.

'But you have to credit Kildare, they have been in this position so many times over the past four or five years and I think their composure and ability to make the right decisions under pressure was probably the difference in the end.'

Still, there was a spell in the second period when Kildare were rallying that Louth looked like their might hold out.

'It was punch for punch and they weren't able to get ahead. We were keeping them at arms length, but we lost our efficiency up front and missed a couple of chances that the rest of the team needed as a reward for the work they had done. We took so much ball back off Kildare and having spent that much energy when you counter-attack you need the reward.'

The most glaring example was Shane Lennon's missed 13m free-kick, but O'Rourke refused to point any fingers.

'There's no blame being laid on anyone. Shane has been tremendous all season; he's the top scorer in the country and that was uncharacteristic. As a team we put ourselves in scoring positions and took bad options, so we have to take responsibility together. At the back maybe a wee bit of tiredness crept in and we fouled where we wouldn't have fouled in the first half. That's concentration and it's about being in that situation and knowing what it takes to close a game out with 10 or 12 minutes to go. The team will be better for being in that situation today, but that doesn't dampen the frustration.

'For three quarters of the game I thought we were the better team and if one or two balls had fallen the right way there might have been goal chances there. It didn't happen, but we kept going and we felt if we kept banging on the door it would open.

'Kildare are one of the best conditioned teams in the country and we're only playing catch-up, so maybe that caught us out a wee bit in the end.'

The Reds chief hailed the atmosphere a strong travelling support generated.

'It was a great atmosphere and Louth fans travelled in large numbers and got behind the team at crucial times. It was disappointing that we weren't able to bring it home for them.

He was even more glowing in his praise of Man-of-the-Match Ciaran Byrne.

'Ciaran is one of the best prospects in the country and that performance has been coming and coming and coming. Every game he has got better and better and he's a tremendous prospect. I think they had three different men on him and no-one could get near him and he's carrying a couple of injuries, but you wouldn't see it. He can be very proud of his performance.'

Ultimately though O'Rourke was expecting a downbeat journey home for all concerned.

'Nobody feels the disappointment like a player. They'll be going home thinking about every little incident and blaming themselves, but ultimately they can be proud of themselves. They were unfortunate to meet a team of Kildare's calibre so early in the Qualifiers.

'Ultimately they didn't the rewards their commitment and work deserved this year, but I think they have built a very good platform for next season.

'I would feel we're an All-Ireland quarter-final team, and I think we've shown that at times this year. But we have to learn to play for 70 minutes and maybe our conditioning needs to get up to 70 minutes.'

The Argus