Louth will be seeking to bridge a 40-year gap when they take on Derry in Ardee on Sunday with Mickey Harte’s men in dire need of the two points on offer.
he Ulster champions will descend upon Páirc Mhuire as league leaders following their 12-point defeat of Limerick in Owenbeg last weekend, whereas the hosts suffered a gut-wrenching loss by the minimum in Ennis 24 hours later.
Having lost their opening round matches in each of the past six seasons, including three under Harte, Louth will be seeking to arrest a disappointing home record under the Tyrone-native. The Reds have won just four of their seven matches as hosts since the manager took the reins but will play on familiar sod in four of their next five outings, starting with Derry.
“People like to believe that their home venue means something and that they can do better there than on the road,” said Harte, looking at the programme ahead.
“It’s less demanding in that you don’t have to stay overnight or have a long travel included. But just because we’re at home doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily going to get the result we want. If we put the effort in that we did (in Clare) and some more, you’re in with a fighting chance.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Derry fielded a portion of their Glen contingent, including midfielder Conor Glass and winger Ethan Doherty, in the facile triumph against Limerick. The Maghera club were defeated by Kilmacud Crokes in the All-Ireland senior club final recently, the controversy from which continues to rage.
Influential Slaughtneil trio Brendan Rogers, Chrissy McKaigue and Shane McGuigan are also primed to tog out on Deeside, as are veteran forward Benny Heron and powerful centre-back Gareth McKinless.
Indeed, the one-time All-Ireland champions have firmly set progression into the top tier as a foremost objective and they will view their round two task as only a Wee hurdle ahead of crucial duels with fellow title contenders Dublin and Kildare over the spring.
“I feel that often Division 1 wasn’t as tough as this,” added Harte, when alluding to the volume of established sides in the second-flight.
“This is a heavy division with the big hitters like Kildare, Dublin and Derry, and Cork are always Munster finalists or All-Ireland quarter-finalists, and then Meath, Clare and Limerick, they’re all serious operators. That’s Division 2, you’re getting to the second level and we have to try to do our best to remain in that comfort.”
Tom Jackson and Niall Sharkey were very impressive when introduced during the second half of the opening day duel and given their experience and proven ability at the elite standard, it would be a surprise if they were not included from the throw-in this time around.
Especially considering the knocks which Ciarán Byrne, Paul Mathews and Tommy Durnin have picked up in the past week. Bevan Duffy, who is not long returned to the squad, may well be called upon around midfield based on the now limited options which Harte and Gavin Devlin are left with.
Derry could potentially include Glen powerhouse Emmet Bradley around the centre of the field and that would pose another great, imposing figure to contend with and demand that Conor Early displays the form which he has fleetingly portrayed so far this campaign.
Or, perhaps, captain Sam Mulroy could be withdrawn to a midfield area given his presence and fielding acumen?
However they manage it, Louth need a result if the third round contest with Limerick isn’t to be one where desperation is the foreboding emotion.