It’s a Long Way to Tipperary – Louth Panel set off on foot

The Louth panel were in high spirits this morning as they left the O’Rathallaigh’s for Tipperary ahead of Saturday’s 2.45pm throw in. Confidence in the camp is high after the eight point massacre of Leitrim two weeks ago. The Wee men are scheduled to arrive at Semple Stadium at around 2.40pm on Saturday afternoon, in plenty of time to limber up and sing the anthem.

Louth County Board have been buoyed since the return of the county tactics manual just minutes before throw in at the Leitrim game. Ambassador Kelly’s subsequent deployment of the attacking blanket smothered a lacklustre Leitrim that day and hopes are high that his ‘bible’ can come up trumps yet again. His Excellency confided how the manual advised that the only way to beat Tipp away is to get a good march on them. So what better way than to literally march to the game in match formation from Drogheda?

Louth panel's cross country route to Tipp bypassing Meath
Louth panel’s 50 hour team bonding/training cross country route to Tipp bypassing Meath

The initial route backroom staff had mapped out was a straight forward 35 hour cross country run south by southwest to Thurles, the only potential obstacle being the bog of Allen. Naturally though, Amb. Kelly was against the panel setting foot in enemy territory so close to a crunch qualifier so the trip was rerouted around Meath via Carrickmacross and Ballyjamesduff. While the diversion will add another 15 hours on to the trip, Amb. Kelly is looking at it positively.

“Yeah we could’ve just bussen them blindfolded through Meath and given them Louth sourced oxygen like in previous years. But that’s not what this is about. I’m trying to change the grassroots set-up here in Louth so I am. The extra 15 hours it’ll take to skirt around Meath will be an exercise in bonding and tactics, a real chance for the minors who’ve been called up to get to know the lads. And sure what useid they be if the very first thing they done as senior players was to literilally run into Meath?! They’d be sullied for good. I’ve seen it happen to a few Blues lads before. No, this is the best option going forward.”

There were some grumblings amongst the players and Dundalk based journalists when the travel arrangements were announced.

“Are you off your rocker Your Excellency? These are modern players, finely tuned athletes. They’re not farm hands from the 1920s who’d think nothing of cycling to Kerry and back for a kick about on the Saturday and then pedalling like billy-o back for a championship game up in Cooley on the Sunday after a barn dance a rattle with a milkmaid.” – Harry Yore, Sports Illustrated, Dundalk Office.

On the whole, the panel were just glad to get out in the fresh air after being cooped up in the O’Rathallaighs clubhouse since the Leitrim game perfecting the blanket, learning the words to the popular wartime marching song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and playing endless games of Pella.  His Excellency sililoquyed…

“Tipperary as a football county haven’t been the same since Bloody Sunday. They’ve not gotten over it at all. Some of the know-all panellists on The Sunday Game have been saying the same about us and 2010 but we pale in comparison to this bunch. Yes they relegated us in Drogheda but that was the league and nobody takes that seriously. Give me a competitive O’Byrne or Railway Cup any day. The league just doesn’t have that intensity of knock out football.

As the panel headed off to ford the Boyne west of Drogheda, Ambassador Kelly looked like a proud dad seeing his doomed sons go off to a war in a bygone age.

“The lads have left here togged out. They’ve got one football between them cos’ that’s all what’ll be used on the day. They’ve got some isotonic drinks and the subs will be carrying a few extra bags of crisp sandwiches to carb up on before throw in.

“It’s true that some of the players were skeptical about the travel arrangements as it is quite the walk to Thurles. But the tactics manual has advised this and I’d be a fool not to go with it. I played in the very first qualifier again Tipp in 2001 in Clonmel and we marched down that week too. Guess what? We won by two points that day. Coincidence?

“Why didn’t I give them compasses? What kind of a question is that? Have you ever heard of team spirit son? Let me tell you this. They’ve learnt the words to It’s a Long Way and that’s all the guidance they’ll need. People are great at helping. They’ll hear the lads singing and point them in the right direction. We need to have more faith in people. I for one don’t believe in this stranger danger nonsense, not for adults.

“I instructed the full forward line to make sure the sunrise is on their left and that the North Star is behind them. And if they’re lost a great tip is to look at car reg plates to check the county they’re in. If they do find themselves in this situation they’ll have to work as a team to figure out a solution just like on the pitch if they were losing a game.

“I doubt Tipp are putting in this amount of prep. They probally think we’re a weak team after the league game. But you wait’ll you see our boys sprinting on the pitch in Semple Stadium. A lot of them are leaving boys but they’ll arrive men.

“If I’ve timed it right and I think I have, the team will arrive looking like wildlings and that’s bound to spook the Tipp players. Am I worried? No. In fact I’m the opposite of worried. I’m unworried.”

With that, Ambassador Kelly was ushered to his car by aides eager he not be late for his ambassadorial duties [a meet and greet with Tallanstown socialites as part of Renault’s sponsorship of a local tyre garage] while the tactics manual was taken by Securicor van to secret location for safe keeping.

 Throw in for the All Ireland Championship Qualifier game between Tipperary and Louth is at 2.45pm on Saturday in Thurles.