Saturday 24 February 2018

Fitzpatrick hit with triple blow

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Louth have been decimated with injuries and defections ahead of their Leinster opener against Westmeath on Sunday week.

Manager Peter Fitzpatrick has been left with a major midfield crisis after James Califf confirmed his decision to join Brian White and Brian Donnelly in Boston for the summer.

White and Donnelly, a former AFL player with Adelaide who returned home in time for last season, are already in the US. Califf was being earmarked in their absence as the potential partner for Paddy Keenan. But now he, too, has informed Fitzpatrick of his imminent departure and with another squad member, Cathal Bellew, also bound for Boston, it has stretched the resources.

"I know there is not a lot you can do when these guys want to go. But when you ask them if there's anything we can do, can it be put off and they tell you their tickets are already booked, it is a little bit more annoying," he said.

"It seems they want to play county football out there and if they play for Louth they can't do that," Fitzpatrick explained. "It's disappointing because you don't expect to lose players in this way before the championship," he said.

"We have real problems at midfield now with the loss of those three players (White, Donnelly and Califf)."

Louth will also be missing regular full-back Dessie Finnegan as he is on honeymoon for the next two weeks.

His replacement would have been Mick Fanning, but after overcoming an Achilles problem he had during the league, he tore a hamstring in a club match on Friday night last and has been ruled out for up to six weeks.

Eamonn McAuley is out after back surgery, while Eoin O'Connor, one of the stars of the U-21 team who might also have provided a stop-gap solution at midfield, is also out with a knee injury.

"We're under serious pressure and running out of bodies. Three weeks ago we looked in a lot better position that we are in now," Fitzpatrick said.

Louth were due to play a challenge match against Monaghan last night, while their juniors face Kildare tonight and Fitzpatrick admits he will looking to that team now to fill out his squad.

Shane Lennon is already confirmed as a non-starter in this year's championship after undergoing a hip operation in the last few weeks. Lennon has acknowledged that the injury is career threatening, but confirmed yesterday he is already back training on the bike.

"I'm going to miss the championship. I had an operation on my hip three weeks ago. It's an extra piece of bone in my hip and it has been tearing away all the cartilage.


"But I was up with the surgeon last week and he's happy with the way the operation went. It's a career threatening. There is a young lad from home who went in the same day as me and his didn't go well. He has to go for another two operations over the next two years. That's how serious it can be."

Lennon hopes to be back by August for the end of the Louth club championships, but is encouraged by what Louth achieved in the league as they finished fourth ahead of Derry, Westmeath, Monaghan and Meath.

"It was a very good campaign. We performed well against Tyrone and Kildare. Up in Derry we should have won. We should have beaten Galway. I know people were saying that Meath were poor when we played them in the last round, but any Louth team that beats Meath will have to put in a big performance. Meath would raise their game for Louth and it's the same.

"We hadn't been able to do it for the last while, but after last year's championship game there was a bit of revenge in the heads, especially after last year's game even more so than the Leinster final."

Despite the list of absentees listed by Fitzpatrick Lennon thinks Louth should be aiming to finish in the last 12 at least.

"There is no reason why we can't make the last 12. We've played the better teams like Tyrone and Kildare and we haven't been too far off that pace. We have to be more ambitious."

Irish Independent

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