Making History | 

Louth fans plan to outnumber Dubs in Croke Park for provincial final

Chairman Peter Fitzpatrick insists ‘there will be nobody left’ in county as they seek historic Leinster title

James Califf of Louth greets supporters after the Leinster quarter-final against Westmeath at Páirc Tailteann in Navan. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Frank Roche

Louth may be 10/1 outsiders, but they are expecting to match Dublin for support as they seek to make Leinster final history on Sunday.

The Leinster Council is expecting an attendance of around 40,000 for the Croke Park decider as Dessie Farrell’s reigning champions seek to extend their record-shredding provincial run by landing a 13th consecutive title. And Louth GAA chairman Peter Fitzpatrick is banking on “at least 20,000” to make the short trip from his county as they pursue a first Leinster coronation since 1957.

“I’d be disappointed if it’s not 50-50 at least. But in terms of Dublin supporters, they always come for the final,” he told the Irish Independent.

Fitzpatrick was manager in 2010 when Louth were infamously denied provincial glory by a wrongly-awarded Meath goal. This will be their first time back in a final since, with Dublin monopolising Leinster in the intervening 12 years, leading to an incremental decrease in public interest.

The official attendance for last year’s showpiece against Kildare, won in an avalanche of first-half Dublin goals, was just 33,328 – and that figure, a 31-year low, was augmented by a provincial ladies final curtain-raiser.

However, Fitzpatrick described interest levels as “unreal” in the Wee County.

“In fairness to other sports, the likes of athletics, soccer, rugby, most of the games are called off in Co Louth to facilitate the final on Sunday,” the Independent TD revealed. “And in fairness, we’re trying to organise a meal back in Dundalk after the game, and the biggest problem I have at the moment is staff shortages – everyone is going to the game.

“We’ve waited 13 years for this and, in fairness, in the last three years we’ve gone from Division 4 to Division 3 to Division 2. There’s a lot of big effort put in, and the whole following is coming back to the GAA.

“When Louth goes well, even though we’re the smallest county in Ireland, we’ve got a big supporter base. There’ll be no man, woman, granny or child – there’ll be nobody left in Louth on Sunday!”

The transformation wrought by Mickey Harte has given Fitzpatrick reason to hope his county can beat the odds, but he has never hidden his admiration for the Dubs.

“We look up to Dublin, we admire them,” he stressed. “I remember Dublin back in the ’80s and ’90s were struggling to win things, but you have to give them credit. They set a standard for everybody else to catch, but wouldn’t it be nice to beat Dublin on Sunday and them going for their 13th Leinster in a row?

“As far as I’m concerned anyway, there’s 31 counties out there next Sunday cheering on Louth. Now, nearly 70 years since we last won a provincial title, wouldn’t it be nice for the Wee County to go out and beat probably the best team that ever was in Ireland?”

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