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Louth need personal bests all round - manager Colin Kelly

Sean O'Neill

LOUTH manager Colin Kelly has said that his players will each need to produce “PBs” if they are to progress past Derry in the first round of the football Qualifiers on Saturday.

The Wee county were beaten by Meath in the quarter-final of the Leinster SFC on Sunday, following their comfortable win against Carlow in the opening round. Kelly, now in his second season in charge of Louth, lambasted the meagre six-day gap between the defeat to the Royals and the trip to Owenbeg to face Derry.

Kelly could not hide his disgust at the situation that he and his players find themselves in, and spoke of the “lunacy stuff” as regards fixtures scheduling: “It’s a big match,” said Kelly.

“And it’ll be a good occasion - the unfortunate thing is that our preparation has been hindered with the six-day turnaround. There’s the emotion of getting beaten in the Championship match which is pretty gutting in itself.

“But then to have to pick yourself up and lift your intensity and everything else again for another Championship match six days later is totally unfair on them. People sit and they talk about player welfare - who’s kidding who here? It’s actually embarrassing to think that the fixture is actually put out.”

Although Kelly’s dismay was palpable, he was also quick to point out that he will not be using the short space between contests as an excuse should his team come up short against the Oak Leafers: “It is what it is,” he said.

“You can sit down and whinge about these things all day long and it’s not going to change, or you can embrace it and do the best you can by it and that’s the approach we’ve taken. We won’t be sitting huffing or feeling sorry for ourselves.

“I think the thing that exposed us a little bit in the Meath match was the fact that we hadn’t played a team at that level all year. We were just found out a little bit against Meath - not for want of quality -  just the intensity and we were dealing with a different skill-set from the Meath players. We weren’t way, way off the mark but we just did probably find the Division Two team a bridge too far.”

Kelly agrees that the experience of playing Meath will have brought his players on, but is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing them against Derry, who although well beaten by Tyrone, will have had nearly four weeks to prepare.

“What I’ve told the lads is: PBs all round is what it’s going to take to get the job done,” said Kelly.

“And to state the obvious - if Derry play to their full potential and Louth play to their full potential - Derry will win. But our goal is to bridge that gap and build a squad that when we play to our best that we’ll be capable of winning these type of games.”

Derry have their own issues to contend with, having been brushed aside by Tyrone on May 22 and shipped quite a bit of criticism for that capitulation against their fierce rivals. Kelly, however, feels that losing to the Red Hands at present should not result in too harsh an appraisal for Damian Barton’s side.

“How many counties wouldn’t take a bit of a hammering from Tyrone?” asked Kelly.

“To base anything on the Tyrone result would be unfair - Tyrone went down to Tipperary in the Qualifiers last year and beat them out the gate. The same Tipperary team that is in the Munster final, so it’s very hard to judge form lines of a result when you have Tyrone, Dublin or Kerry involved.

“The one thing I will say is - Derry got a result against Meath, which was beyond us last Sunday. There are people down in Louth who would probably be harshly judging us for our performance last Sunday, so there’s probably always a little bit more thought of you outside your own county than actually in it.”

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