Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Paddy's points drove us on'

Declan Byrne, pictured tussling with Kieran Martin, was the top forward on display in the entire Championship over the weekend, according to one Irish Independent columnist.
Declan Byrne, pictured tussling with Kieran Martin, was the top forward on display in the entire Championship over the weekend, according to one Irish Independent columnist.

Marcus Cavaroli

ANDY McDonnell paid tribute to skipper Paddy Keenan for stepping up to the plate in Cusack Park - just when Louth's challenge seemed to be wilting.

'They got the goal and we were under the cosh two points down, and then Paddy came in and scored two points in a row.

'He's talismanic, he was just brilliant, leading by example. He's a lad people look up to and he does get a lot of credit but maybe not as much as he should. He's one of the best midfielders in the country.

'It was a tough match. We came back into it first half and in the second half, like some of the matches we've been in, they came back into it and went a few points up.

'The changes were made and there were fresh legs and Ryan Burns came on and scored a good goal, and he wasn't the only one. Conor Grimes is a big man and very good at winning the ball out front and laying the ball off or taking his own score.

'He laid one off to me unselfishly and he's a great asset to have. Him and Shane Lennon were very good, but everyone who came in did their job and that's what it is - it's about a panel of 20, 21 players.'

Things didn't go entirely to plan - certainly not the first 14 minutes when the Reds found themselves trailing by 0-3 to no-score despite playing with a strong breeze in their favour. But by adapting their style of play Louth were able to counteract Westmeath's tactics.

'We didn't really know what was going on [at the start]. We kind of struggled, but we fought our way back into it and they only scored two points for the last 26 minutes, and we built on that.

'Three points was probably a good lead at half-time, having the wind, but it could have been a lot worse. We didn't realise and cop on to their game plan of dropping men back.

'If we didn't listen to Aidan and the selectors, we could have gone in three points down. Myself included, we kicked the ball away aimlessly and it killed us building from the back. Once we got the ball through the hands, we cut them open and eventually we ground it down.

'We seemed to finish stronger compared to other matches. We were going through the motions, maybe, I don't know what it was, but 1 to 20 the lads who came in off the line made a big difference and everyone is hungry for it.

'We were a bit worried that we'd kicked it away in the first half. Was it 11 wides? I didn't realise it was that much.

'But maybe we play against the wind, running the ball. I know I keep saying 'running the ball', but that's the plan. There's no point kicking the ball in high when they're dropping lads in and you're playing five against two.'

In a high-intensity Championship match, it wasn't a huge surprise that McDonnell wasn't aware of the Reds' large wide count, and he certainly wasn't going to start collating individual scores either, so he was pleasantly surprised to hear of the depth of Derek Maguire's scoring contribution.

'Derek got five from play? Jaysus - I thought I did alright with two, but he was brilliant. He had his own role today and he stuck to it and to the rest of the boys he was a great asset, with the scoring he did.

'I saw one ball in particular 50 yards out and he had no right to win it. He won the ball and we got a free from it and that was the turning of the game.

'We're delighted with the win. I know it's only one step, but it's a difficult place to come and it's great to get our first win on the road.

'We'll look forward to the Kildare match in Croke Park, but they won't be fearing us. We'll be underdogs, but that's the way to have it.'

McDonnell's final words, inevitably, were about Ryan Burns, and he expressed the wish that Louth will be able to hang on to their prize asset in the coming years.

'It was a great debut for Ryan. I know his family the Brennans were all there and I was delighted for him. The likes of David and Mark have maybe had their time with Louth and this is the new kid on the block.

He's a good kid and he's only here a couple of weeks and he's focused on what we've asked of him and he knows his role as well.

'I'm looking forward to seeing what he has in the next couple of years and hopefully we can keep him here and build our team around him, but we have a lot of good forwards there.

'There's other places and you wouldn't blame him going to Australian Rules, but we won't talk about that just yet!

'Once you keep him fresh, you don't want to be burning him out either.'

The Argus