Monday 22 July 2019

Young Reds hope to shine

Dan Bannon

Louth Under-20s begin their Eirgird Leinster Championship campaign tonight (7:30pm) against Wexford in the Gaelic Grounds.

Having received a bye in the first round the 'Wee County' is already placed in the quarter-final stage. After the despair of the Leo Murphy Cup, a National Development League where the young Reds were defeated handsomely in each and every one of the games against Ulster sides Antrim, Derry and Cavan, it is fair to say expectation levels are quite low.

The travails of that competition were well documented, the lack of appetite from players around the county making themselves available added to the malaise, but on closer inspection, they did face a formidable group.

Derry and Cavan have since reached the Ulster Championship semi-final, while an injury-ravaged Antrim team bowed out to the eventual Leo Murphy Cup winners Down. So with that added context, this year's batch of players might be forgiven for such bad form early in the season.

Manager, manager Aidan Shevlin is well aided by John Flanagan, Ciarán Sloan, Ciarán Byrne and Darren Clarke and with that brains-trust of current and recent inter-county experience available, you would like to think they will have sought and worked on improving various elements of performance in the four intervening weeks of preparation.

Panel-wise the fortunes will certainly have been bolstered by the availability of senior players Eoghan Callaghan and Dan Corcoran. Both men featured for the seniors side in championship games this year and look to slot into the heart of Louth's defence at full-back and centre-back respectively.

Elsewhere, the other senior panelist Leonard Gray has already played with U20's and the Pats defender will be looked upon for further leadership in that department.

Looking at their opponents Wexford, they the only football side in the county to win an actual championship game in 2019 at the sixth attempt when they beat Wicklow in the opening round.

Louth inflicted one of those defeats in the Leinster Senior Championship and the only player involved that day for the Yellow Bellies was wing back and Under-20 captain Eoin Porter.

History draws back these two sets of players even further at this age group. It was Wexford, after all, who Louth beat in the minor championship semi final in 2017 to abridge the 46-year gap for a Leinster final appearance.

Then managed by current senior boss Wayne Kierans, the minors edged that contest 4-10 to 2-15 and looking at the Wexford team then and last week, less than half of them will be involved tonight. Wexford's most notable absentee being Brian Deeny, scorer of a try for Ireland in the Under-20 rugby World Cup recently.

Louth, sadly, will pull a similar number from that historic team on various grounds. Goalkeeper Alan McGauley, for one, has left the panel for professional reasons, but a level of continuity in the development of that much talked-about side is starkly absent.

Of those players who will feature, Louth will look to John Gallagher, Fearghal Malone and Gerry Garland to hopefully set up a home Leinster semi-final against Dublin on 9 July.

Drogheda Independent