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Louth’s championship ending in June after one game is ‘a bit sad really’ – Mickey Harte
Louth’s championship ending in June after one game is ‘a bit sad really’ – Mickey Harte

Louth’s championship ending in June after one game is ‘a bit sad really’ – Mickey Harte

“TO DECIDE BEFORE the end of June that your season is over and there’s nothing else to play for, that’s a bit sad really.”

That was Mickey Harte’s assessment after Louth’s year was ended by Offaly yesterday.

You suspect the managers of Waterford, Clare, Sligo, Down, Wicklow and Carlow would echo those sentiments.

All seven counties suffered opening round provincial defeats over the weekend, consigning them to the scrap heap for another year.

At least Louth got a good competitive 90 minutes out of their Leinster SFC tie in Navan.

Waterford lost to Limerick by 18 points, Clare fell by 17 to Kerry, Down were 16 points off Donegal and Sligo suffered a 20-point trouncing by Mayo.

Wicklow’s season ended on a sour note with a loss to Wexford, just two weeks after their heartening Division 3 play-off win over Cavan. Carlow made a decent fist of things against Longford but won’t be able to build on it for some time.

These are the very teams that would have benefited from an extra couple of weeks training and playing together. It will be 2022 before they play a competitive game together again.

“You hate losing championship matches, in particular losing championship matches that are a done deal,” said three-time All-Ireland winner Harte.

“You’d love to have the qualifiers or you’d love to have the Tailteann Cup here, for players to go now and say you’ve put a huge effort into what you’ve done so far, there’s something else to go for.

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“I think it doesn’t do justice to the teams that are trying to make themselves better and climb the ladder a bit.”

Without a backdoor for the second successive season and the introduction of the Tailteann Cup delayed once again, progress has stalled for Gaelic football’s unlucky seven.

The Wee County sealed promotion from Division 4 before Harte’s first championship campaign over the county lasted just one game.

“I think that’s not fair for the effort and work that people put in, and I think it’s really hurting the less developed counties at the moment,” continued Harte.

“The teams that are good and strong are going to be going through for another game or two anyway, because they’re already at that level.

“But teams who have come from the lower divisions, who want to just get another game or possibly if they got the right draw to get two games, that makes their year so much more productive and so much more satisfying for the effort they put in.

“So, yes, I think we have been short-changed a bit.”

Louth centre-forward Sam Mulroy finished the game with six points but with the teams deadlocked in the fifth minute of stoppage-time at the end of the regulation 70 minutes, he had a late chance to send them through.

The Naomh Mairtin ace was unmarked around the 45m line with the breeze at his back as Louth worked the ball from the right flank to their captain in the final play of the game.

His shot dragged narrowly wide and the game went to extra-time, where Louth were overpowered by Offaly.

“It is (a regret), you know, when you have the chance to seal a victory in a tight game like that,” remarked Harte. “It would have been harsh on Offaly if we’d have done it, but we would certainly have delighted ourselves in doing it.

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Offaly’s Ruairi McNamee is tackled by Ciaran Byrne of Louth.

Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

“But these things happen. We did well to put ourselves in that place, because they got a goal very late on – and it was a bit of a comedy of errors in a way that created that goal for them, and it was a critical score.

“And the effort it took us to get back was maybe what deuced us a bit when it came to extra-time, because we didn’t get a goal to get back – we had to work our socks off to get three points.

“And so I think that drained us a little bit, and I obviously can see the experience they have; they’re a more developed team physically and every other way than we are. That’s why they are going to Division 2.

“They’ve been at this for a few years now, so we were a bit behind in the power stakes when all was said and done. But having said that, in normal time, we could have stolen a victory there.”

Louth scored 19 points but either kicked wide or dropped short another 24 shots, although many were from outside the scoring range.

“We probably were a bit wasteful, I thought, even throughout the whole game.

“There were good chances that came our way, but you don’t know if this is poor execution or the pressure of the opposition – probably a combination of both.

“I wouldn’t fault the players. I think they gave us a huge effort there today, and they were playing a bit above what we’ve met so far in terms of opposition.

“And that’s a learning experience for them, knowing that where they’re heading up to another division now, life gets tougher.”

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