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KELLY MENDING A DAMAGED HEART.

Byline: PAT NOLAN

Louth v Westmeath Tomorrow, 3.30pm LOUTH manager Colin Kelly admits the "heart was ripped out of the team" he inherited as they bid to put their relegation woes behind them against Westmeath tomorrow.

The two teams have one thing in common in that they have both suffered demotion in the League in each of the last two seasons.

Westmeath will still be looking down on Louth - a county who were a straightforward refereeing decision away from becoming Leinster champions just five years ago - from Division Three in 2016.

"You have to take it on the chin," explained Kelly, who took over from Aidan O'Rourke after last year's campaign. "The people that count understand. There is some negativity around the place from an element of supporters who still believe that Leinster finals are achievable and why aren't we going to Croke Park and beating Dublin.

"But the reality of it is that the heart has been ripped out of the team and that's no disrespect to the young lads that are coming in. Transformation takes time.

"We've lost seven starters in fellas like Paddy Keenan, Shane Lennon, Andy McDonnell, Brian White, John O'Brien, Mick Fanning - fellas of that calibre.

"You're talking about midfielders, centre-back, full-forward, the whole spine of your team. You can dwell on it and be negative or you can get on with the job and that's what we've done.

"We've tried to be as positive as we can and not accept second best.

Unfortunately we weren't good enough in the National League but now it's about righting the wrongs."

The Wee County have enjoyed the upper hand against Westmeath in the Leinster Championship in recent years but start as underdogs against the Midlanders in Drogheda.

Kelly added: "We can't look beyond Westmeath. Someone asked me if Dublin were unbeatable in Leinster. For us it's about Westmeath. We need to get over that challenge first.

"You've a lot of football to play before you even get to a Leinster final. One win would do wonders for the team. We're being as positive as we can.

"Yeah, we have issues that we're trying to fix going forward as a county. I believe the fixture congestion is outrageous, nationally in all aspects.

"We have club players trying to be county players whereas, to be successful, you need county players."

CAPTION(S):

TIME FOR ACTION Colin Kelly believes win will boost spirits

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:May 16, 2015
Words:404
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