Louth get their bid for LGFA All-Ireland JFC glory underway on Sunday with a group phase opener away to familiar foes, Carlow.
The scene of their recent Leinster title victory over the same opposition, Darren Bishop’s side will enter the contest full of confidence and in the knowledge that a similar performance will mean they sit top of their three-team group come Sunday evening – and on the verge of qualifying for the semi-finals, which has been the manager’s stated aim since the beginning of the year.
Indeed, the form of Louth’s forwards alone should see the Wee County begin ideally, with Cooley Kickhams star Lauren Boyle and captain Kate Flood having accounted for 2-10 of their team’s 2-13 total in a fortnight ago’s provincial decider.
But perhaps the most positive aspect of the most recent triumph was the fact that Bishop had practically a full hand of players to choose from having, for one reason or another, been unable to settle on a consistent XV throughout the league.
Aoife Byrne and Deirbhile Osborne are two particular players who the Cremartin man has welcomed back from injury lay-offs, while the presence of Sarah Quinn at full-back is hugely significant.
The Cooley native plays her club football with Dublin champions Foxrock-Cabinteely, but has made the commitment to the Reds this season and has been a hugely influential figure in the matches she has played, filling the No.3 role and freeing Michelle McMahon to advance to centre-half.
The team’s improvement from their own restarts has also been evident across challenge and competitive matches since the surprise league semi-final defeat by Antrim in the spring; something which was key to building a winning platform against Carlow last time out.
For their part, Carlow took positives from their wind-assisted, second half display in the Leinster final, albeit the contest was over. Full-forward Clíodhna Ní Shé hit seven points, most of which were from second half frees, which will give the Louth management food for thought ahead of their third meeting of the season.
Meanwhile, Rachel Sawyer, the dangerous Carlow corner-forward, also posed problems with her pace and directness, in spite of being largely starved of possession.
The Barrowsiders are expected to be a more potent threat 14 days on, however, and Bishop was respectful of this when looking ahead in the final’s aftermath.
“Carlow are walking off that pitch extremely disappointed and we’re going to have to face that in two weeks’ time,” he said.
Nonetheless, it would be a major hiccup if the Reds were to leave the south-east with anything bar victory. Hence, the manner of their performance could be the real barometer. They will not want to show any frailties with potential opponents watching on.