Fitzpatrick: A Wee bit of forward thinking could do the job against Westmeath
LOUTH'S return to a more attacking style against Meath in their final outing in Division 2 last month has raised hopes among supporters that the championship could provide better days than the Allianz League.
Louth were relegated after picking up only two (two draws) of a possible 14 points, a setback which left supporters restless. There were criticisms of the tactical approach adopted by manager Aidan O'Rourke, with claims that it was overly defensive and not suited to the Wee County's traditional style.
Former manager Peter Fitzpatrick was among those who had reservations but was pleased with what he saw against Meath on the last day of the league.
"Louth played very well and were unlucky to lose by a point. They were very positive and took the game to Meath, which was great to see. Louth have some of the best forwards in the province and can do well when the game plan suits them," said Fitzpatrick.
Draws against Galway and Armagh, who finished sixth and seventh respectively, represented Louth's best returns in Division 2, where they lost to Down, Donegal, Laois, Monaghan and Meath.
Facing higher-ranked opposition in the championship after dropping into Division 3 would normally present big difficulties but circumstances are different for Louth as they are playing a team who were also relegated, albeit from Division 1 to Division 2.
Westmeath lost all seven games in the top flight, leaving them seeking their first competitive win for over 13 months.
"If Louth attack Westmeath, they have a good chance. Nobody thought Louth would go anywhere near beating Laois in last year's Leinster championship, yet they won easily.
"Louth won't mind going to Cusack Park either. They know the ground well and it's only a short haul for the followers. If Louth go all out in attack, they will do a lot better than people seem to think," said Fitzpatrick.
He believes that the prospect of earning a shot at Kildare in Croke Park on June 8 is a huge incentive for both sides as they attempt to put the early-season disappointments behind them.
It's almost four years since Fitzpatrick steered Louth so close to winning the Leinster title for the first time since 1957 and while he insists that the controversial defeat by Meath in the final has been consigned to history, there are many in county who wonder what impact a provincial win would have had.
"It left a scar on some of the younger lads but it's behind them now," said Fitzpatrick. "You can only look forward in sport. It's all about playing Westmeath now. Every season brings its own possibilities and hopefully Louth can make things happen on Saturday."