Sam Mulroy and Louth keen to maintain their upward trajectory

The Wee County players have responded well to the new managerial team under Ger Brennan and eyes are now focused on returning to the provincial final

Life after Mickey Harte; nobody was quite sure how it would play out for the Louth footballers.

In the immediate aftermath of last September’s shock announcement that Harte was jumping ship from Louth to join Derry, there were fears the Wee County’s upward trajectory from his three years at the helm would be halted.

Truth be told, that story still has a way to run yet before its final few chapters take shape. But so far, so good for Louth in 2024.

Former Dublin star Ger Brennan’s appointment initially steadied the ship and then, as the league progressed, there were clear signs the players had responded to the new management. There would be no malaise and no reaching for easy excuses.


“I think that was mainly the big aim for this year, to ensure that we didn’t take a step backwards,” says Sam Mulroy.

“And while some results didn’t go our way, I thought the group showed serious character to stay in Division Two with all the change that happened.”

For three seasons Harte and his coach Gavin Devlin were in the Louth wheelhouse, and the Tyrone duo transformed the fortunes of the Wee County’s senior footballers.

When Harte was appointed in late 2020 Louth had just been relegated to Division Four. But when he hightailed it to Derry last September, he left Louth in Division Two and with a team which had contested the 2023 Leinster final. So, definitely in a far better place.

Still, the nature of his departure stunned Louth – including those inside the dressingroom.

“[The players were] probably blindsided like everybody else,” admitted Mulroy. “It was a big shock and there was great disappointment at the time obviously, we felt we were on a journey.

“But it’s kind of one of those things, you quickly move on, you have a job to do and no matter who is involved we have a responsibility to look after ourselves and it was a case of next man in.”

Brennan, a two-time All-Ireland winner with Dublin, was that next man in. He assembled a management team that included James McCartan, a Sam Maguire winner with Down in 1991 and 1994, and Niall Moyna – who had worked with the Dubs during their all-conquering era.

Mulroy, rather than focusing on the negatives of Harte’s departure, says Louth have been accentuating the positives of getting the opportunity to work with several more All-Ireland winners.

“There is a different dynamic, different philosophies, different thoughts. I think it has been interesting for us as players to marry them both together, which has been exciting,” says the Louth captain.

“Ger has been excellent in terms of listening to what we have learned and bringing that in with his style and, vice versa, the players have taken on board everything he has brought to the table.

“He’s an All-Ireland winner and there are lots of All-Ireland medals in that management team with James McCartan and Niall Moyna, so it has been great to have those guys with that experience in our dressingroom.

“Ger was around for the start of that Jim Gavin era so there is lots of knowledge there. James McCartan is coming from maybe a different era again, so it has been nice to marry the whole lot together and try get a style of football that is suited to us as a team.”

Mulroy also feels the mix of footballing cultures – the Tyrone influence of the previous three seasons and Brennan’s Dublin approach this term – can only benefit Louth.

“I suppose it is a different way of talking maybe and looking at the game, the language the boys use and the way they see it can be different – and it’s probably reflected in the styles of the northern football and maybe the Dublin style of football.

“It has been nice to marry those together and find a nice balance between them.”

Louth begin their Leinster SFC campaign with a quarter-final against Wexford on Sunday in Portlaoise. Having retained their Division Two status, the next target is to navigate a way back to a provincial decider.

Ultimately, Mulroy feels this group of Louth players are building something bigger than yearly aspirations – they want to change how the county’s footballers are viewed.

“For that younger generation, it’s important that they have somebody to look up to, that they have a team to look up to within the county,” he says.

“In years past, you would have seen lots of soccer jerseys with Drogheda and Dundalk being in the League of Ireland, lots of rugby players have come from Louth too.

“You would have seen [kids] wearing Dublin jerseys or Kerry jerseys an awful lot more when I was younger. It’s a case of now, ‘Can we change that narrative?’ Make heroes and good teams out of Louth and give the kids something to strive for.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times