Tuesday 16 January 2018

O'Rourke insist there's life in the old dog yet

John Savage

AIDAN O'Rourke insists Louth have 'not become a bad team overnight, as a third straight defeat to Monaghan consigned his team to the bottom rung in Division 2 of the Allianz Football League.

The Reds take on Galway this Sunday in a must-win clash at the Gaelic Grounds (2.30pm) and O'Rourke insists his troops have nothing to fear from the Tribesman.

Despite an eight-point defeat in Clones, Louth did show a marked improvement from the debacle in Newry a week previously, particularly in the second-half when they were reduced to 14-men.

'This is a good Louth team,' O'Rourke declared. 'It's the same team that went to Loais and hammered them in the Championship last year, beat Armagh at the Athletic grounds, played Armagh off the pitch for 50 minutes this year, and cut Laois apart for 35 minutes in the second half. It's the same team, but fellas just need to believe in themselves and that's our responsibility, and we've been working hard on it and we will continue to do that.

'We're very clear on what we have to do and the first part of that is winning [on Sunday]. It's very important, almost vital, that we win, but Galway came to Drogheda this time last year and we beat them comfortably, so I don't think anyone in the dressing-room is considering it to be a mountain of a task.'

While many would have predicted a defeat in St Tiernach's Park, Meath's draw in Ballybofey and Galway's impressive win over Down in Tuam were not in the script, but O'Rourke insisted Louth can only worry about themselves.

'Results weren't that favourable in terms of the make-up of the table, but everything is still in our own hands and that's all you can ask for,' he continued. 'If you don't go and win your games, you have no excuses and if you end up out of the division that's your own fault. We have six points to play for and we're more than capable of securing five or six points.'

Reflecting on the Monaghan game, the manager felt his players were nervous in the opening half, but showed great character when reduced to 14-men after the re-start.

'We started the game quite brightly and passed up a couple of opportunities to get ourselves settled into the game, and didn't take them. We played nervously off the back of not taking those chances and we played nervously for the rest of the first half.

'In rugby terms we butchered a couple of chances in terms of the final pass or a pick-up off the ground. We looked like we were waiting for the next thing to go wrong and that told in our play in the first-half.

'But we were still in the game 10 minutes before half-time. In that last 10 minutes I don't know what happened to us, we went to sleep. From a three or four point game having played just okay, we went in eight points down at half-time.

'But I have to give them credit for the second half. They were down to 14 almost immediately, but they still showed great fight and heart. We have to bottle that second-half performance and turn it into 70 minutes next week.

'They threw off the shackles and there was no time to be nervous anymore. All they could do was go at it and they performed much better, but we have to find that from the start next week.'

The concession of a scoreable frees is still a major issue that needs to be addressed, and O'Rourke said they will continue to work on it in training this week.

'In the first-half we conceded eight scoreable frees to Monaghan's two and that's unacceptable at this level. That's something we did look at during the week, because it was a major factor against Down. A couple of them were 80 yards off the ball and to be fair that was going on at both ends and the ref seemed to be looking one way, or maybe they are cuter at it. But we have to address that, whatever way we do it.'

Drogheda Independent

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