Last year’s footballing nadir has all but been erased from the collective conscious (though it still lingers in the collective unconscious). Louth regrouped and were queuing at the door of Division 3 faster than an inter-county star could get showered and hit the Earth after a demoralising home defeat. Things had to change – and they did.
An emergency meeting was held by Louth County Board in the same hotel at least. Motions to get better at football were proposed, seconded and, thankfully, passed. These motions came with a caveat – that the extravagances of Division Three be shelved.
Out went the grown to order red and white rose petals that Ambassador Kelly insisted be scattered in a two metre radius of him at all times, even while off duty.
Out went the shortcuts in training – corners were removed from the pitches at Darver to stop squad members cheating on laps.
Out went Mick O’Dwyer, spun around twenty times and put on a bus to Kerry with a one way ticket and a bag of sandwiches.
Out into storage went the attacking blanket.
In kem a defensive blanket – a sort of inverted attacking blanket – which turned the worst defence of 2015 into one of the best of 2016.
In kem the Tactics Cloud and a new system adapted from the puke football of Ulster and given a finesse by Louth’s very own N’Golo Kanté, Derek Maguire and the attacking guile of Conor ‘Thor’ Grimes, Jim and Burnsie.
In arrived Barrymaguigan man Paddy Crozier, a former Londonderry boss with an intimidating northern accent. With him came non-senile pedigree and that cunning aggressiveness that sees Ulster teams regularly trample over their grannies in order to get to the ball first, metaphorically speaking.
On his instruction secret cameras were installed by management in Chicken Hut and other chippers to curb the old habits of celebrating a home defeat with a few pints, a dance in Earth, a snack box and a threesome on the way home. That player was benched for repeat offences.
Two players were expelled from the panel as the new northern methods paid dividends. The panel were woken up by torch in their beds, hooded and taken to a disused farm house in Ravensdale to be interrogated while tied to a chair after it was discovered that half of the ice from the ice baths never melted because it was actually plastic ice. Nothing brings a team together like a collective trauma.
Ex-Ambassador thrives after diplomatic demotion
Relegation was unexpected and hit the now ex-Ambassador hard, like an unprovoked attack outside a nightclub during the pedestrianization of West Street.
Shorn of the pomp and ceremony afforded by his former Renault Ambassadorship and given a hardship posting to Division 4, Louth supremo Colin Kelly spent hours driving bottomless around Clogherhead wondering about the future and fretting about how exactly local climate change would impact on the height, weight and handling skills of GAA players yet to be born.
It was one of many existential crises the ex-diplomat would suffer during the dark winter months. There had been warning signs. He’d said some pretty crazy things about two tier champships. But most could see they were the words of a man at the end of his tether – heavy defeats away to Sligo, home to Tipperary, home to Limerick and again to Tipperary will do that to a man.
Would the players still respect him without the trappings of diplomacy? If anything, they unleashed the beast within. Suddenly, the ex-Ambassador didn’t have to temper his tongue. He could call a spade a spade, not mince his words and be as unpleasant and harsh as he wanted. Many who know him were shocked by this sudden change in personality but he felt liberated and it worked wonders on a young team. That gruffness and lack of decorum helped mould them into a formidable unit that beat Antrim to the Division 4 title in Croke Park last month. GAA is no place for manners, just ask Meath.
Carlow have brought Louth back down to earth before. After the Royal theft in the 2010 Lenstur Seenyur Fuhbil Champship Fine-il, a demoralised Wee County headed to Carlow in the opening round of the 2011 All Ireland. They lost. Could it happen again? Colin Kelly thinks not.
“We’ve prepared for this game thoroughly so we have and we hammered them in the League, which is more competitive than the Champship anyways. But lookit, it’s a challenge match before the opener against Meath in Navan on June the 12th. We’re fully focused on the Meath game.
“Carlow will give us a chance to give some fringe players a run out. At the end of the day, the result isn’t important, it’s the performance what counts. We’ve conditioned the panel to finish strongly so they’ll only be hitting their peak in mid August. We’ll be looking to avoid injuries.”
Throw in between Louth and Carlow is at 5pm in Portfuckinglaoise of all places.