Leitrim v Louth – A Preview – Darren Bishop’s thoughts on a crucial Lidl NFL Div 4 fixture

Preview by Dermot Woods

Louth make the trip to Cloone on Sunday afternoon (24th Feb), in what could be a crucial game in a very competitive Division 4. Darren Bishop’s team face Leitrim – who also have one win and a loss from two outings, having beaten Derry and lost to Antrim.

An 8-26 to 0.03 triumph at home to Kilkenny gave the Cremartin man the opportunity to experiment and give recent additions to the panel an opportunity to impress, following the narrow, round one defeat to Limerick, which the manager admits stung both himself and his squad. “If it didn’t hurt you you shouldn’t really be involved in football.”

Foxrock-Cabinteely defender Sarah Quinn was one of those to get gametime in Stabannon, the full-back returning to Wee County duty after an eighth year absence. Indeed, with Leitrim appearing to possess a goal-scoring touch having hit 6 goals in their two outings to date, her role could be crucial this weekend.

Darren Bishop and Brigid Russell on the sideline in Stabannon two weeks ago

“We’ll be looking out for not conceding goals – or slack goals as we did in Limerick, after half-time, which cost us dearly,” Bishop said. “They beat Derry in the first round of the league and notched up 3-3. Obviously goals is something that we’re going to have to watch out for, as with some of the other counties.

“But, as I said to the girls before, Leitrim are certainly going to have to watch out for certain players that we have.”
He added: “We look at Leitrim last year and everything sort of fell asunder on them. Players decided to step away from it and it’s unfortunate for any county football team, but it definitely brings that bit of the unknown to them this year.

“We’re just not that sure of every single player that they might have available to them at this moment in time. They will be playing intermediate championship football and that again brings a different element because you’re expecting them to be a high-quality team.”

Leitrim withdrew from last year’s league having played just two matches and failed to take part in the Connacht Championship.  It would have been a huge highlight for those working behind the scenes to see Leitrim back in action as they were impressive winners over Derry in this year’s opening league fixture.

Last week saw them lose to Antrim in a high scoring affair where they paid the price for a poor first half performance as they trailed by 10 points at the interval. Despite a strong second half display they went down to a 5.10 to 4.06 defeat.

They will look to make home advantage count in what will be only the third meeting between the County’s with Leitrim prevailing in their previous clashes in 2010. That year Leitrim won the Division 4 title and have retained their Division 3 status since. They possess one of the best keepers in the country in Michelle Guckian, Sinead Tighe and Aoife Gilmartin provide defensive stability while Deirdre Moran and Eilish O’Dowd are a strong midfield duo while up front Vivien Egan has shown her worth having scored 3 goals in their opening two games. Nevertheless, the Louth boss is happy with the situation his own side find themselves in. Indeed, he reckons his biggest challenge will relate to keeping every squad member happy, such is the ferocious competition for places.

“Probably the hardest thing that I will have to do is to keep everybody happy within the camp; that everyone is buying into the one idea, the one goal and moving in the one direction because it’s extremely competitive for positions at the moment. It’s a fantastic thing to have within your county, that you have that quality and that ability, but it’s going to be a tough job to choose the best 15, or 18 or 19 on a game day.”

Kate Flood, one of three survivors from the 2010 encounter

Louth will be aiming for a better outcome than when they last had the Connacht county as opponents in the 2010 League. The first meeting was in April of that year in Dundalk and resulted in a convincing win for the visitors on a 3.14 to 0.08 scoreline. They met a month later in the League Semi-final in Ballyconnell and Leitrim inspired by the brilliance of Aine Tighe as she along with Eve Guckian were pivotal in ensuring that Leitrim progressed to the Division 4 final.

Louth have three survivors from nine years ago, Sarah Quinn, Susan Byrne and the 2018 TG4 2018 Junior Player of the Year, Kate Flood who again will captain her county this season. Eve Guckian is Leitrim’s only survivor while star attacker Aine Tighe is expected to miss out due to injury.

The teams in the 2010 semi-final were,
Louth; Caoimhe Breen, Aine McGee, Sarah Quinn, Sandra Lynch, Annemarie Lynch, Grace Lynch, Patricia Marmion 0.01, Grace Rogers, Rosanna Heaney, Susan Byrne 0.05, Kate Flood, Laura O’Neill, Maria Reid,Tara Lynch, Grainne Mackin, Subs used, Deirdre O’Hare, Amy Devlin.

Leitrim; Caoimhe Beirne, Charlene Tyrell, Sinead Brennan, Mairead McCauley, Teresa Mylott, Anna Conlon, Claire Owens, Sinead Fowley, Eimear McGlade 1.01, Lorraine Brennan Mairead Stenson, Aine Tighe 1.08, Aoife Fox, 0.01, Eve Guckian 2.00. Subs used; Deirdre McDermott 1.00, Aisling Brennan, Christine Quinn.
Referee; Yvonne Duffy (Cavan)