Louth in need of snookers if they’re to gain promotion from the Lidl NFL

Louth manager Kit Henry shakes hands with Clare selector Lee Hunt before last Sunday's National League meeting. Picture: Warren Matthews

Caoimhín Reilly

Louth require snookers if they are to qualify for the Division 3 final moving into Sunday’s round seven meeting with Down at Darver.

Two defeats in a row have almost fatally damaged the Reds’ promotion tilt, which began with four consecutive victories, and they enter this weekend’s match below their opponents and in fifth place.

A victory over Down and a loss for Kildare, who play Wexford in a table-topping clash, would put Kit Henry’s charges level on points with the Lilies, who they defeated earlier in the campaign. If Clare, as expected, pip struggling Longford, they, too, would finish on 15 points, bringing score difference into the equation given Kildare overcame the Banner while Clare bettered Louth.

If that were to be the case, it is most likely to be Kildare who will go through to the decider in second place based on their considerable superiority in the registry columns. Therefore, really, Louth need to win and hope that both Kildare and Clare lose, which is unlikely.

The Mourne girls make the short trip up the M1 with ambitions of moving up the league tiers themselves and can be found in a virtually similar position to the Reds, only they need Wexford to be beaten by Kildare having been the only side to topple the Slaneysiders so far this season.

Down have Cooley Kickhams men’s team trainer Mark Poland as part of their coaching entourage, as well as former Ireland Australian Rules player Kevin McKernan, who enjoyed a distinguished career in the red and black over a 15-year period.

Defensively, they are believed to be really well-organised, with captain Meghan Doherty a sturdy influence in the back line.

For Down, it may also be a case of seeking revenge for last year’s intermediate championship defeat at Clan na Gael Park, a reverse which condemned the Ulster outfit to the junior grade for 2023. Qualifying for the league final would be ideal preparation for an All-Ireland tilt.

And the visitors will probably go into Sunday’s match as favourites on the back of a comprehensive victory over Longford last weekend. Louth, after a narrow loss at home to Wexford, were on the end of their most deflating defeat under Henry’s watch in Clare and, so, will have to lift themselves ahead of determined Down's call.

The Wee management will be intent on getting ace Kate Flood’s prolific forward partner, Laura Collins, back into the side. The Newtown Blues clubwoman missed the loss in Munster where several other players did not perform to the levels hoped for.

Thus, changes in personnel could be in the offing as Henry bids to manoeuvre the Reds back on track.