Ominous task for Louth against a Dublin side bigger than Leinster itself

Last year’s Leinster final means Louth folk won’t hold out much hope. A tight game seems to be the most they can ask for.

Louth manager Ger Brennan on the line against Donegal during the National Football League match played at Fr Tierney Park in Ballyshannon on Sunday 3rd March 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Louth manager Ger Brennan Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

“Strictly conventional behaviour”.

That’s the definition of a formality. It even sounds boring.

And that isn’t Dublin’s fault. Victims of consequence, as all one can possibly foresee is a display of third-gear faultlessness and a 15 point win.

Stephen Cluxton won’t lift the cup with such caution of a father and his newborn.

It’s more like his adult son, having first won this competition back in 2002. They’re interdependent in one sense and completely independent of each other in another.

It’s so peculiar as the Ulster Championship thrives to see one team outgrow an entire provincial structure. That’s exactly what Dublin have done. The apprentice has trampled the master into the ground.

Fontaines DC, so quintessentially Dublin, almost echo the voice of their county, saying all the things Dessie Farrell wishes he could to the Leinster Council:

“What good is happiness to me

If I’ve to wield it carefully?

For care I’ll always come up short.

It’s only right.

“I don’t think we rhyme

I will wear you down in time

I will hurt ye, I’ll desert ye

I’m one Jackeen of a line.”

Fontaines DC will soon be back in action after a Covid scare. Picture by Ellius Grace
Fontaines DC. Picture by Ellius Grace

The funny thing is if Dublin did celebrate in the same vein as Armagh or Donegal, you’d genuinely cringe.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, a predicament borne out of public boredom.

It all comes back to insanity. Dublin in the Leinster final, we can’t be seen to expect a different result. We’ve got to the stage where match previews are a case of how many.

Which must be an interesting dynamic for Ger Brennan, as he squeezes the shoe onto the other foot and blocks out the noise and the blatant discomfort for a day.

So much of Mickey Harte’s progress with Louth was tainted by hidings from Dublin and Kerry in the 2023 Championship.

Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin have moved to Derry after three successful years in Louth
Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin moved to Derry after three successful years in Louth

The Division 2 league match between the Leinster rivals last year saw just a point in it at the break as Dublin prevailed by seven in the end.

There was ground to build on that, with a first Leinster final since 2010 promising so much, if not a trophy.

Then Dublin clocked up 5-21 and match reports of Wee County nightmares contained awful words such as “annihilated” and “demolition”.

And yet, it wasn’t for lack of trying. The league game taught them that damage limitation could only get them so far.

Come Championship, they pushed up, they took risks, and still it wasn’t enough.

Sam Mulroy emerged as one of the best footballers in the country under Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Sam Mulroy emerged as one of the best footballers in the country under Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin Picture: Seamus Loughran.

So what does Ger Brennan do now? Meath’s wastefulness in attack cost them, but on occasion the long, early ball worked.

Will Sam Mulroy be left as the lone forward in defence? You’d think Louth will vary that approach.

In Tommy Durnin and Ciarán Keenan they have one of the best midfield partnerships in the country. The problem is the pairing alongside them ain’t so bad either. Louth’s retention of long kickouts could be a game changing factor.

But it’s only one factor of many that have to go off script in order to sway this.

With a big game in Croke Park against Dublin, Fontaines DC offer the ominous warning:

“If I can make you, I can break you.”