LOUTH manager Peter Fitzpatrick has hailed the qualities of Aaron Hoey, who plays his 150th senior inter-county game in the O'Byrne Cup final against Kildare at Newbridge tomorrow.
Hoey (33) started his Louth career in 1996 and he and Fitzpatrick were briefly fellow panellists.
"This is Aaron's 16th season. I finished with Louth the year he started. That was in 1996. We didn't play much together, but I've watched his career all the way through from there," said Fitzpatrick.
"I call him 'Mr Versatile'. You could play Aaron anywhere. He's played full-back, centre-back, midfield, on the '40', full-forward -- he's played everywhere for Louth.
"All he wants to do is put on the red jersey. He's a great ambassador for the sport. It's a pity he's 33. I'd love him to be 23."
Fitzpatrick has picked Hoey at full-back for tomorrow's final, and expects him to be challenging for a place in the Louth team again this year.
"Aaron has many qualities as a footballer and the most important one is his commitment to the cause," said Fitzpatrick.
"He's never missed a training session. He's always one of the first there and he's great at giving the young fellas a lot of help. He's like another selector for me. He's as nice off the field as he is on it.
"A lot of people thought last year was going to be his last season, but he had a great campaign. He came on in the Leinster final and played very well.
"The way I look at it is, I don't judge a person by his age, I judge him by his performance and at the moment he's giving great performances."
Hoey has made 39 champion-ship appearances for his county in his 149 matches to date.
That puts him in second place in the Louth all-time appearances list, which is topped by Stephen
Melia, who has 179 to his credit.
It is interesting to note that 10 years ago, on January 21, 2001, Melia came on as a sub for Hoey in the
O'Byrne Cup quarter-final defeat to Westmeath at Mullingar.
Melia played most of his football for the Wee County during the 80s and 90s, winning an All-Ireland 'B' championship medal in 1997 when Louth defeated Clare in the final.
He won his only county senior championship honour with St Joseph's at the age of 44 in 2006, and was still playing for his club in Division 4A League fare last year.
Hoey's 39 championship games put him joint third alongside John 'Claudie' Clark, who played in the first couple of decades of the last century.
The late 1957 All-Ireland winner Stephen White, chosen as left half-back on the Team of the Century and who was inducted into the Louth Hall of Fame in 1999, is second on the Louth championship appearances list with 47.
The top man in this category is Eoin Markey, a member of the 1910 Wee County side awarded the All-Ireland title when Kerry refused to travel due to a row with the Great Southern Railway Company.
He played 56 championship games for Louth, with a possible three more for which team details are missing.