Saturday 19 January 2019

Louth looking to Tipp the balance

John Savage

Pete McGrath has admitted that the Louth players and management are 'hurting' after making a disastrous start to their Allianz League campaign.

The Reds chief believes a win in Tipperary on Sunday (throw-in 12.30) would work wonders for his troops, but dismissed the notion that the pressure is now off as they sit on the brink of relegation back to Division 3.

'Mathematically we can still survive, but obviously we have to win all of our remaining three games and hope that will be enough.

'You could argue that no-one gave us a chance at the start and now that we're bottom of the table after four games the pressure will be off a bit, but we're hurting. The players are hurting, the management are hurting and that brings pressure because you're looking for that all-important first win.

'It's amazing what a win can do. As a management team you try to keep heads up and reassure players, but to win a match is worth more than a million words, so that's the target, starting in Thurles on Sunday.

'To go into the championship on the back of seven defeats would be an unenviable position to say the least. Every manager will tell you that how you perform in the league and results in the league have a bearing on the championship, so it's important that we finish the campaign strongly and show a marked improvement.

'But this is a young team and morale is still strong. No-one is burying their head in the sand here. We all know it will take a lot of hard work to turn it around, but we're more than prepared to do that work.'

The Down native is again under no illusions as to the task facing his side in Semple Stadium on Sunday and he doesn't expect last year's meeting at the famous old venue to have any bearing on this weekend's clash.

Louth famously clinched promotion in Thurles just under 12 months ago, but Tipp gained revenge a few weeks later in Croke Park in the Division 3 final and have been in munch better form since.

'You'll take any straw of comfort, but obviously Tipp beat them in the league final a few weeks later and there has been a big turnover in personnel from our point of view. To be honest I think from year-to-year these games have very little bearing on each other.

'Tipp are going well, they're sitting on five points and they've made significant progress over the last number of years. They're certainly in the mix for promotion and this weekend will tell a lot in terms of who is still in with a shout in the last two games. They'll be looking at us as a must-win because four other teams have taken maximum points against us.

'From our point of view, you have Meath on three points and Clare on four points and we still have to play them both, so there's hope in that sense. But that's also why I was so disappointed with the Roscommon result. I really felt that was a game we could win and it would have given us a great boost going into the last three games.'

Louth's approach won't change on Sunday, but McGrath revealed they will be hoping improve in a couple of key areas.

'We go into every game focusing on the performance. I always tell the lads that the scoreboard will take care of itself if we get the individual performances right and we'll continue to do that. Looking at our four games to date there were large parts of each game where we were every bit as good as the opposition, but we seem to have lapses or spells where we let the opposition get a run on us and put up 1-3 or 1-4.

'In the Roscommon game, for example, we scored the first point of the second-half to close it to three and then allowed them to take complete control.

'So we have to target a greater level of consistency over the 70 minutes and try to neutralise those periods where the opposition are taking a grip on the match.'

There was good news for Louth supporters as Tommy Durnin took a full part in training on Sunday, while Darren Marks should also be available for the trip to Tip.

'Tommy trained okay on Sunday, so he's showing no ill-effects. He might have been a doubt if the game had gone ahead this week so that is a bonus.

'Darren Marks also took a knock and he may have been suffering from a slight concussion too, but he did most of Sunday's session too.

'But John Bingham hasn't trained since and obviously Jim McEneaney, Niall Conlon and Sam Mulroy are still out long-term.'

The Argus