Conor Grimes: Leinster final humiliation hurt Louth badly

Conor Grimes says Louth have restored some credibility with their displays against Cork and Mayo after a Leinster final hammering at the hands of Dublin
Conor Grimes says Louth have restored some credibility with their displays against Cork and Mayo after a Leinster final hammering at the hands of Dublin

LOUTH attacker Conor Grimes is determined never to suffer a repeat of their Leinster final humiliation when Dublin were 'banging in goals for fun'.

The 29-year-old, enjoying the form of his career under Mickey Harte, admitted they uncharacteristically 'almost threw in the towel' in the closing quarter of that 5-21 to 0-15 demolition.

It was an unlikely collapse as they'd previously come from eight points down to defeat Westmeath and overcame Offaly after extra-time, two character-laden results which followed a terrific Division Two campaign.

They've since restored a level of pride with battling two and one-point All-Ireland SFC group-stage defeats to Cork and Mayo and still have a chance of qualifying for a preliminary quarter-final ahead of Sunday's clash with Sam Maguire Cup holders Kerry in Portlaoise.

"We were extremely hurt after the Leinster final," said half-forward Grimes. "We didn't expect it to go like that at all, it wasn't in our plans. We came back home afterwards to a few of the clubs and just to see the support and the colour that was out for us that day was unbelievable.

"The kids, like, Drogheda was completely packed, Ardee was packed, Dundalk was packed when we were coming back through with the bus.

"It really kind of hit home for us as players, the support that we have is phenomenal and we worked exceptionally hard to right the wrongs that happened that day. We didn't want a repeat of that for ourselves but also for the fans that come out to support us.

"We almost threw in the towel, I suppose, in the last 15 or 20 minutes. Dublin were banging in goals for fun and could have had more and we just never wanted to let that happen again.

"From the management's point of view as well, they told us, 'Look, we're not going to let this happen again'."

A Louth win this weekend, coupled with a defeat for Cork against table toppers Mayo, could be enough to send Harte's side through to the knock-out stage.

The problem for Louth, according to Grimes, is that he reckons Kerry have been purposefully building towards hitting their strongest form at this point of the Championship.

"They're only getting going," claimed the Glen Emmets man. "This is a must-win game for them as well so I'm sure we're going to see the best version of them on Sunday. That's what we're preparing for."

Three-time All-Ireland winning Tyrone manager Harte's extensive knowledge of playing and overcoming Kerry teams in the past can only be a help to Louth.

"Yeah, absolutely," nodded Grimes. "He hasn't mentioned that himself but I think any game he goes into he's just got that mentality, he's got that winner's mentality."

It was a subtle tweak to Grimes' positioning by Harte and coach Gavin Devlin earlier in the year, moving him from the full to the half-forward line, that freed up the man-mountain to hit his best form.

"It actually came about by chance," explained Grimes. "We played an All-Star game where the current Louth team played a selection of (club) All-Stars before Christmas. We were short numbers so Mickey played me at centre-back. With my direct running, he saw something in me playing out around there."

Grimes had to put an extra emphasis on developing his aerobic capacity too, in order to cover the extra ground demanded by Harte.

"It's been definitely my best season in a Louth jersey," said Grimes. "They're constantly at me, all the time, trying to get more out of me as a player. It just gives you confidence, making you believe you are good enough to play at this level."

On the Louth GAA stadium issue, in the news due to spiralling costs and a fresh projected completion price of EUR25m, Grimes sounded an optimistic note.

"There's nothing that man can't seem to do," said Grimes of county chairman Peter Fitzpatrick who has promised to 'beg, borrow and steal' to construct the stadium. "I'm very confident that he will be able to get it across the line."

* Conor Grimes was speaking at the announcement that Allianz, proud sponsors of the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, has released the third episode of its 'Write Your Own Story' series.