HomeFootball‘It’s only impossible until it’s done’ – Tommy Durnin issues clarion call...

‘It’s only impossible until it’s done’ – Tommy Durnin issues clarion call as Louth bid despite trauma of last year

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Now that they’ve got back there, the key is how much they’ve learned from the trauma of that 5-21 to 0-15 defeat.

Dublin, once more, are the Croke Park party-poopers on Sunday. Make that miracle-maulers.

Only in Leinster football would you get a two-horse race where the final odds are 1/100 (you-know-who) and 22/1, even though the latter are now firmly established as a Division 2 side with aspirations of climbing even higher.

“A lot of lads probably have regrets from last year,” Durnin accepts. “And there are a lot of people probably saying that it’s only a matter of Dublin turning up. We’ll let the public decide what they want, but we want to be where we want to be. Yes, we have to play a lot better and we learned a lot last year. But it all comes down to throw-in. We’ll really see where we’re at then.

“We analysed last year’s Leinster final the week after it – where things went right and where things went wrong. Dublin can kill you in ten minutes. I think they scored 1-5 in ten minutes.

“But as long as we learn and bring a different intensity and a different level to go at Dublin again … that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Louth actually started last year’s final brightly, and when skipper Sam Mulroy landed his third point, and first from play, they led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 12 minutes.

Twenty minutes later, they trailed by 12, having coughed up an unanswered 1-10 to voracious opponents who went for the kill off Louth’s kick-out.

And even though the underdogs responded with five points on the spin either side of half-time, this was merely the calm before another storm.

Twelve months on, what’s the difference? First up is Dublin’s status – as All-Ireland champions reborn. Then you have Louth’s change of manager.

That said, Mickey Harte’s departure for Derry hasn’t remotely destabilised the group, as some naysayers had predicted.

Ger Brennan has consolidated Louth’s place in Division 2 – and copperfastened their status as the second-best team in Leinster, franked by their semi-final win over Kildare, Durnin popping up from midfield to land their first and final scores in a four-point win.

Now, though, comes the ultimate benchmark. Sunday will tell us whether Louth have moved on from last year’s double-whammy against the country’s heavyweight duo – their Dubs demise followed by a 28-point rout against Kerry.

“When we lost 12 months ago to Dublin,” Durnin recalls, “straight away after we were like, ‘Guys, we need to get back here. We did not do ourselves justice.’

“Dublin press and press and press. They squeeze the life out of you, so it’s being able to deal with that pressure, get on the ball, make things happen.

“We’ve learned and we’ve learned the hard way. They were two big beatings from Kerry and Dublin. We’ve also seen what can happen in the likes of the Mayo game. But as good as we performed against Mayo, we still lost [by a point], so they’re only moral victories.

“We want to be causing upsets and we want to be winning these games. There’s no point just being competitive and patting each other on the back.

“Yes, people looking from the outside will say it’s an impossible ask. But it’s only impossible until it’s done, so we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Now 31, Durnin’s Louth career spans a decade. Just a few years before he started, Dublin were lording Leinster but “nowhere near All-Irelands and people were on their case”. Kilkenny were then four-in-a-row kings of hurling … but now that mantle has passed to Limerick.

These shifting eras offer encouragement that counties can become contenders if they give themselves a chance. Squad turnover in Louth is “very small” – players are sticking with it, through thick and thin. “It’s all about creating that culture in Louth,” he concludes.

Durnin’s personal progression, he believes, has been facilitated by an inter-county club transfer from his native Westerns, a small junior club, to Inniskeen Grattans in Monaghan. It happened three years ago.

“Has it helped me? Definitely,” he confirms. “In previous years, when we were getting knocked out in the Leinster Championship and you were into the qualifiers, your season could have been over in May or June. Then you’re going back to the club scene where basically my club maybe lasted until August.

“Then your season is over and you get comfortable. You’re not pushing yourself, not going to the gym three nights a week. You’re having a few beers at the weekend, you’re living a comfortable life.

“Now, the way the split season has gone, I’m playing with Inniskeen, who are challenging for senior titles. We won a league title last year for the first time in a long time. I’m a very competitive, putting-my-shoulder-to-the-wheel kind of guy. So, it was a period where I just wanted to give my all to football and I want to be the best I can. We kind of have that belief in Louth now.

“Even going to a new club in Monaghan, it has opened new doors … last year in the senior final [against Scotstown] I played against eight Monaghan senior players. It’s great prep. You’re playing in these pressure situations where you learn. Sometimes the experience is good, but if you’re not up for it, then you’re found wanting.”

For Louth, the very same question now looms. Are they up for it?

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