Fitzpatrick delighted with 'dream' draw


ALL-IRELAND SFC QUALIFIERS:“WHAT HAPPENED two weeks ago is all forgotten about.” Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick firmly shuts the door on that topic of conversation.

Of course, it will never be forgotten. It will always be there, lingering in the background of Louth GAA as their blackest of days. For several reasons.

The referee’s decision to award Joe Sheridan’s late, eh, dive/throw will be forever combined with the actions of Louth supporters who manhandled referee Martin Sludden on his exit from the field.

The images of those few seconds will always live on. A steward lying prostrate on the ground. Fitzpatrick with arms spread-eagled trying to keep fellow countymen from Sludden as a pitch invasion brought that issue firmly back into focus.

And then the rumours and stories about other ugly incidents around the stadium in the aftermath of this dramatic and highly-contentious endgame.

The question of security at Croke Park has become a real live issue considering Sludden was being shadowed by Gardaí when attacked.

One question: how on earth can the Louth footballers raise themselves after the devastation of the Leinster final defeat? They will play Dublin on Saturday back in Croke Park, that’s how.

Fitzpatrick has been an entertaining figure all summer long as Louth made their march to what was supposed to be a date with destiny. As a man, his integrity has been tested. He has passed the test. It is sport and he quickly realised the authorities could not help the Wee County. Meath consulted their players and opted not to offer a replay.

The championship moved on and so must Louth.

“We are concentrating on Dublin now. Nothing else,” said Fitzpatrick. “We got back training last Tuesday and Thursday night. It was tough enough. But we have to deal with Dublin now.”

It could have been worse. They could have drawn Cork and the dream could have faded without a chance to return to the scene of the crime. Louth against Dublin is special.

For years Peter Fitzpatrick stood on Hill 16 in admiration of his southern neighbours. In possession of the thickest Louth accent you could ever hear, and that’s saying something, Fitzpatrick’s loyalty is not under scrutiny but he has Dublin blood coursing through his veins.

He drove back to the cathedral of Gaelic games last weekend knowing the way sporting fate tends to work that Louth were likely to be given a crack at the big city footballers.

“I was in Croke Park last Saturday to watch them beat Armagh as I had a funny feeling we were going to be drawn against them.

“I’m a big Dublin fan myself. I go to their games every year.

“My father is a Dub. I was brought up liking them. I love the whole idea of Hill 16 and have been on it myself many a time. It is a fantastic place. My father was a soccer man. He played for Drumcondra and Inchicore.”

When Dublin were drawn the whole of Louth were finally able to let the conversation move on. They could even smile again.

Fitzpatrick simply got down to work. He didn’t need to dig around for DVDs. It was all in the mind already.

“I’ve seen most of Dublin’s games this year. They have improved so much since the Meath match, even since Tipperary. Last week against Armagh you could see it coming together for them.

“I thought at one stage that Armagh were going to beat them but this young team showed their strength to come back. It is going to be a fantastic match. At this stage it is a 50-50 game. We will be ready.

“Playing in Croke Park, playing against the Dubs. What more could you ask for? It is what dreams are made of.”

They have already experienced the nightmare.