Louth threw away an early lead amid scenes of unmitigated confusion in their Division Three National Allianz Football League encounter with Sligo at Markievicz Park today. Consecutive victories over footballing behemoths Clare and Wexford had given Louth the new-found confidence of a bald man who’d recently had a hair transplant.
A free scoring Louth team had notched up an impressive tally of points in their previous two games, largely due to Renault Ambassador and Louth manager Colin Kelly instructing his players not to waste scores in training. However rumblings from the Louth camp this week suggested Ambassador Kelly had gone too far by removing the goal posts altogether. When The Faa Side heard this we naturally assumed that metaphorical goal posts were being moved but we are now in a position to confirm that the actual goal posts were removed, not merely ‘moved’.
It is however, hard to fault Ambassador Kelly’s thinking. An innate finisher himself in his pre-ambassadorial days, Kelly wanted his panel to instinctively know where the posts were without having to look at them. It is attention to details such as this that separates the Kerrys and the Dublins from the Louths and the Londons. It takes time for players used to wildly swiping at kicks to process and install a localized GPS system of all inter-county grounds in their brains, never mind fine tune it so it works off either foot. The key here is patience; the rewards will be plentiful.
Sligo 2-26 2-9 Louth
Louth swaggered early on, building up a commanding lead through a Ryan Burns free kick, but things soon began to unravel like a thrown toilet roll.
The Louthmen were confounded by Sligo’s strip, which tricked the team into believing the men in black were indeed referees. Fearing a smattering of red, black and yellow cards, the Wee men simply refused to contest any balls against the referees. Their ruse undetected, Sligo stormed into a 1-7 to 0-1 point lead before Ambassador Kelly received oral confirmation from GAA HQ that the team on the field were indeed the Sligo team and not fifteen whistleblowers.
Ambassador Kelly and his coaching team then tried in vain to relay the information to disbelieving and visibly shook players. But with the noise of a home crowd giddy with excitement and the brazeness of the Sligo ruse, many Louth players either didn’t hear the instructions or simply refused to believe them. By the time Ambassador Kelly could speak to his players the damage had been done with Sligo commanding a halftime score (2-16 to 1-4) more akin to an under 16s versus under 14s challenge match. The problems in communication suffered by Louth only adds weight to the campaign to bring back the quarterly time keeping system.
Speaking after the game, Ambassador Kelly was visibly upset with the Sligo tactics and spoke at length about their treachery and how they had besmirched the proud history of the GAA.
That’s not on so it’s not. I am outraged that Sligo were allowed to impersonate referees by wearing a black strip. If that’s the level counties are stooping to just to get an advantage then there is something rotten at the core of our national game. I’ll be making a formal complaint to Croke Park over this with the full backing of the Louth County Board.
I mean, what chance have you got if the opposition are togged out like referees? You can’t lay a finger on them or you’ll be sent off. How were we meant to get the ball even?!
Kelly admitted that he found it odd that there were fifteen men in black on the field of play and only three in the Sligo colours of gold and white.
I’ll admit I thought it a bit odd so I did that there were only three of their lads on the pitch but I thought I’d keep quiet as nobody else seemed to notice and I thought we might just get away with it. Two of their fellas were positioned wide on either flank so we doubled up on them while the other lad was in a utility role in the middle where I was confident we could outnumber him and get the ball quickly into Blackie Judge.
At that stage I thought we’d have too much for them given the form we were in. But then who’d have thought that a county would pull such a dirty, underhand trick like this? You can’t plan for that so you can’t.
I’ve told the players to forget about it and that these things happen but there are a lot of lads in there very upset altogether. Our main focus now is on the big game against Tipperary on Sunday in Fortress Drogheda.
Asked to comment on reports that the Louth County Chairman had tweeted about putting a curse on Sligo, Ambassador Kelly seemed not unkeen about the idea.
It comes down to karma so it does. If you are willing to treat other counties like this then you have to accept the consequences so you do. I’m sure our chairman knows what he’s doing. There are certain things you shouldn’t mess with, this [the Sligo strip] is one of them.
Responding to calls from local Sligo hacks that the Yeats county always wore black, Ambassador Kelly’s eyes narrowed,
Course they do, course they do.
Louth’s next game is at Fortress Drogheda against the hurlers of Tipperary on March 15th.