Wishful Wayne knows how to win in Wexford
Wayne Kierans is a mere mortal just like the rest of us and can't help but get sucked into the hype that championship football brings - and that in itself is endearing.
Louth begin their 2019 Leinster campaign away to the Yellowbellies of Wexford on Sunday and there's an extra buzz in the camp ahead of the long-awaited provincial opener, according to the manager.
'It is another game, but there is something about the Championship, no doubt about it, in all terms and ways,' Kierans enthused.
'I'm looking forward to it as well. It is my first experience in the Leinster Senior Championship, so I am looking forward to being back on the sideline for a start!
'So yeah, it is going to be a good day, but let's make it a really great day by turning in a performance.'
Kierans touched further on that National League ban and is thankful to his backroom team for steadying the ship in his absence.
'The backroom team were fantastic without a doubt there,' Kierans said.
'Yes it was difficult, but as I kept saying through the campaign you just had to respect the disciplinary process. It was what it was. it is over now, but we just have to look forward.'
Without looking too far forward, Kierans reflected on what he deemed an 'inconsistent' NFL campaign, but one with an overwhelming upside.
'We are very positive about it,' Kierans noted.
'I know it didn't end the way we liked it. Literally one more score and we would have got promoted, so that was hard to take, but looking back on it we got a good lot of work done.
'We were slightly inconsistent in our performance levels, but even that, there is something there to work on for the future.'
Despite the club month which fills inter-county managers with dread, Kierans reckoned prepartions have gone well and Louth bucked the trend by actually gaining players.
'Conor [Grimes, pictured above] is back training extremely well, William [Woods] also. So they are definitely in contention, which is a great bonus to have.
'You have that wee bit of trepidation that the club guys get through the fixtures okay. We are ok, not too many lads going to miss out.
'We would have liked to have Casey Byrne, but unfortunately that is not the case. His time will come. But it's a massive bonus to have those two available.'
Looking at the test posed by Louth's opponents Wexford, what does Kierans make of the recent dismal record the Reds hold against them?
'Can't ignore the history, but new regime, new players, new set-ups and new way of playing and a lot of new details, so I wouldn't look too far into that.
'But it would be nice to put right. A little bit of nice championship history rather than what has gone previous.'
What does Kierans expect to see on Sunday?
'We'll expect a little defensive shape alright, but we're working hard on counter-acting that. They've a few very tall, physical players, a few very experienced guys that know where the posts are.
'Some of their scoring has been excellent. Even though the results weren't good they've run up some good scores, so we have our homework done on them, no doubt about that. Ten per cent about Wexford, 90 per cent about Louth.
'I don't think you can make a lot of the fact that they are a Division 4 team and we're Division 3. In championship those divisions can even themselves out. We'll have to make sure our performance levels are really, really high to win the game.'
Kierans, having had success with the Minors against Wexford in Wexford Park in 2017, hopes to improve the chances of high performance levels on Sunday by travelling down the night before.
'I've a good experience from Wexford Park a couple of years ago with the Minors, so that told us that we needed to get down the night before, because it's a long journey.
'You have to find extra, so all the little details are important - whether it is the preparation or the actual detailing of the game.'
Does Kierans think overall that Louth are in a better place this year, than last?
'Make no bones about it, we definitely are,' he responded.
'We are a lot more positive, we have a lot more work done, we have an idea of what we want to do.
'But you always have to find something more for the Championship. Whether that's club level or county level, you do, simple as that. We have to make sure that we find that extra push Sunday.
'Leinster Championship only comes round once a year, so you have to make the most of it. I think there is a good blend of youth and experience and exuberance in the panel. Let's hope we can see that.'