Don’t write off Dublin’s young guns warns Kelly

The Argus - - SPORT - JOHN SAV­AGE

COLIN Kelly has urged his Louth play­ers to treat what­ever Dublin team turns up in Drogheda with the ut­most re­spect on Sun­day.

A cel­e­bra­tion hol­i­day in the Ba­hamas prompted the All-Ireland cham­pi­ons to call up a com­pletely new panel for the O’Byrne Cup cam­paign un­der the tem­po­rary man­age­ment of Paul Clarke.

But whether they con­tinue to ex­per­i­ment on Sun­day or not, Kelly in­sists they won’t be short on qual­ity.

‘A na­tional re­porter said to me there that he was sur­prised Dublin beat Kil­dare - sur­prised Dublin win a game of foot­ball?’ Kelly quipped af­ter Louth’s im­pres­sive semi-fi­nal win over Meath.

‘Who­ever Dublin bring you can be sure they’ll be laden with Mi­nor and U-21 All-Ireland ti­tles and they will have se­ri­ous qual­ity. All of these play­ers are push­ing to get into Jim Gavin’s thoughts.

‘From our point of view it’s a fi­nal and we want to win it. It will be great to get a good crowd out at home and our lads will give it a lash. If we can get sil­ver­ware early in the year it will be great.’

Speak­ing of com­pe­ti­tion for places, Kelly is de­lighted with the way his own squad has shaped up over the win­ter.

‘When I came in here three years ago morale was low and a lot of play­ers had just re­tired. But now all of a sud­den we have a squad with in­tent and we seem to be mak­ing small strides in the right di­rec­tion.

‘The young lads are com­ing in and putting pres­sure on the older guys and we seem to be tight­en­ing up the squad all the time and it only bodes well for the Na­tional League.

‘Andy came in to­day and I thought he was ex­cep­tional and Tommy is work­ing very hard. We have guys sit­ting be­hind us chomp­ing at the bit to get into the team. Dar­ren McMa­hon was cen­tre back last year and we put Liam Dul­laghan in to­day to see where he’s at and again he was ex­cep­tional. Be­van and Con­all and the lads up top, they’re all work­ing re­ally hard too.’

And Kelly felt Sun­day’s dis­play was his team’s best of 2017 to date.

‘It’s a lovely place to play foot­ball and our lads warmed to it to­day with a pas­sion­ate and skil­ful per­for­mance.

‘It’s an­other con­fi­dence builder. Play­ers re­act dif­fer­ently, but we keep ask­ing for more ev­ery Sun­day and the re­sults keep com­ing.

‘Now we haven’t given any­one a trim­ming. We got over the line against West­meath and we got over the line against the col­lege team (Maynooth) and Car­low. To­day was prob­a­bly our best per­for­mance of the four, but the con­di­tions were per­fect and if you couldn’t play to­day when can you play.

‘But I keep preach­ing that from the minute the lads came back in they’ve been very fo­cused on what we want to achieve.

‘Our de­fen­sive sys­tem seems to be im­prov­ing and we’re play­ing bet­ter go­ing for­ward, so over­all they’re a real good bunch to work with and prob­a­bly the only down­side is that we couldn’t get more game time into more lads.’

De­spite a sketchy open­ing spell where numer­ous ef­forts were dropped short into the ‘keeper’s hands, Louth kept a tight rein on Meath through­out the 70 min­utes - be­fore and af­ter Alan Forde’s red card.

‘It’s not just about the six de­fend­ers, the whole team is work­ing hard. When we break we try to do it at pace but that’s an area we wouldn’t be 100 per cent happy with yet. That’s the way the game has gone, you soak it up and then try and punch holes in the op­po­si­tion.’

Af­ter that waste­ful and al­most nervy opene­ing pe­riod Louth found their range on the run-in to half-time with Tommy Durnin, Derek Maguire and De­clan Byrne kicking vi­tal scores.

‘They’ve done that all last year. Some of the points Derek and De­clan scored last sea­son were ex­cel­lent and Tommy has great range in his shoot­ing and he’s very ac­cu­rate for a big fella. We did drop some short in the early stages, but the lads that were pulling the trig­ger you’d still back them ev­ery Sun­day and it will hap­pen for them. It’s still stuff we haven’t worked a lot on in train­ing.’

And Kelly was equally im­pressed by the man­ner in which his side coped with a mini Meath re­vival mid­way through the sec­ond-half.

‘There was no panic. We spoke about the ex­tra man at half-time and to sit the spare man at the edge of the D would negate it, so we tried to push on. When you do that you do leave your­self open a bit at the back so we’re try­ing to work out a happy medium of when do we push and when do we sit. It was in­evitable that Meath would have a pe­riod of dom­i­nance and they kicked a few scores, but there was never a goal threat and I felt they needed a goal to win the game.

While the win was a great morale booster for his play­ers, Kelly feels it should give sup­port­ers a badly-needed lift too.

‘Yeah it’s great for sup­port­ers too. They have seen a lot of bar­ren days and I know it’s only the O’Byrne Cup but it’s an­other fi­nal to look for­ward to and an­other good, com­pet­i­tive match to prep us for Laois the fol­low­ing Satur­day.

‘It’s pos­i­tive. We’ve played four and won four in 2017 and these lads are a plea­sure to work with and they’re im­prov­ing all the time.’

‘We’ve come over here and pit­ted our­selves against a Di­vi­sion 2 team and come out on the right side of it and that’s all you can ex­pect from the lads.

‘I’ve been over here quite a few times and no-one slaps you on the back. Even when we were go­ing out onto the pitch there were few muf­fled boos. There weren’t too many boos when we were go­ing back in which is tes­ta­ment to how well the lads played,’ he added.

A happy Colin Kelly leaves the Pairc Tail­teann pitch af­ter Louth’s win over Meath on Sun­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.