With only days to go before Louth’s crunch qualifier against no hopers Leitrim in Drogheda, Renault Ambassador and Louth supremo Colin Kelly is optimistic about the Wee County’s chances. In a rare sit down interview, His Excellency gave His thoughts on a wide range of topics from the The X Factor to the Grexit.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Your Excellency, I know You have lunch scheduled with the Mazda Ambassador so we’ll be as quick as we can.
After the winless O’Byrne Cup campaign, a demoralising relegation that saw #FortressDrogheda exposed as a myth, a first round drubbing by Leftmeath and a series of panel defections, how is morale in the camp going into Saturday’s do or die game against the Ridge County?
Obviously as a county we’ve underperformed slightly but my mantra has always been to focus on the positives. That belief system translates onto the field of play. Each goal or point we get is a positive number. So say we score a point, that’s +1 point. A goal then is +3 points. We’re working off that basis.
There’s no negativity there. You can’t score negative points, even if you score and OG or an OP. You see, when the opposition scores, the points they get are positive points too, but just for them. We don’t get minus points for the opposition scoring.
I’ve been drilling that into the players on the training pitch. Think positively.
So You’re trying to block out the negativity that has clouded the team this year?
Look, if the team was playing well and winning I’d have the same positive focus. If the media were showering the panel with positivity I’d not suddenly switch to a negative approach.
Having a positive outlook is all well and good, but is there a danger that your exclusive focus on positivity has been to the detriment of the defence?
The way I see it, to score you need to produce something positive and creative. Defending is all about negative energy and destruction. That doesn’t fit into my world view or my tactical vision. I’m a lover, not a fighter, if you understand.
There have been rumours that the panel hasn’t done any defensive drills in training since You’ve taken over.
They’re not rumours. Once you bring in thoughts of negativity and destruction you’ve had it. I see our defenders as an extension of our forward lines. Listening to ‘experts’ going on about the blanket defence makes me physically sick. Literally. There was talk of it on the car radio the other day and I actually had to open the sun roof and vomit out behind me.
Do You feel in any way constricted by conventional GAA formations and tactics?
You hear the northerners go on about ‘blanket defence’ this, ‘sledging that’, ‘yous never helped us in The Troubles’ and all that shite. In my day, a tactical masterstroke was withdrawing the full forward to midfield. The opposition full back would be himming and hawing about follying him. He’d be like a man caught at a sex party dithering over an offer from Jim to do him first to have a crack at his sisters. By the time he’d made his decision you’d‘ve the game won.
But times have changed. I’ve looked into it and the only way you can win a game is by outscoring the opposition. HQ has confirmed this. So we’ve been focusing on all out attack.
Leitrim manager Shane Ward is also in his first year as an inter-county manager. What do You think of him and his approach to the game?
I’ve spoken to Shayne (Ward) and he’s a lovely fella. I think we all followed The X Factor that year, 2006 was it?
You’re right yeah. 2006 was Leona Lewis. Whatever happened to her, the honey voiced vixen? 2005 was Shayne Ward beating the Andy the binman… Obviously some of the lads are eager to meet him but I’ve told them to put it out of their minds. They were disappointed, naturally, and big Conor even started kicking wides in protest.
But we’ve since brought in one of our own to entertain the troops. Our own Eurovision legend Johnny ‘Louth Minor’ Logan. Johnny has played and won in The Hague and Jerusalem, not some barn in Birmingham where they filmed Gladiators. That was when showbiz was glitzy and singers had real talent. Again, no disrespect to Shayne Ward, he’s a lovely lad but he should stick to the singing.
How does the favourites tag sit with You?
Again, it’s a positive thing isn’t it? It gives us confidence that other people think we’re good. If I were a betting man I’d back us to the hilt. I’d a premonition last night of us winning by seven and between me and you, Leitrim don’t have that many actual players in the county so the chances of them having a good team are slim.
Even so, do You envisage any tactical surprises by the Leitrim team?
No. We’ve done our homework. We’re concentrating on ourselves and implementing our attacking blanket. If we score more than them we’ve a good chance of winning. So that’s what we’ll focus on.
That said, we have briefed stewards on the turnstiles to turn away 17 – 35 year old Leitrim lads should they try and get in. We know fine well that their population doubles at the weekends so we’ll not be fooled by lads playing with clubs in Dublin and sneaking into their dressing room already togged out.
What can You tell us about talk of ex-Louth manager and former player Peter Fitzpatrick hankering after a recall to the panel to strengthen up the backs?
I can’t talk about that but I’m sure you’ll be hearing from Peter in the coming days and weeks.
A few questions from our readers to finish if that’s OK Ambassador?
Cheese or chocolate?
Brexit or Grexit?
Grexit every time. You need to pay your taxes.
Thanks Ambassador. You’ve been overly generous with your time. Abú an Lú!