"No-one in that group is going to take us for granted" - Laois aiming for more in 2020
Here's to hoping that this isn't the end of the journey, but the end of the beginning.
Laois have risen. Hurling country is alive. We won't call them a sleeping giant but an underachieving thoroughbred they have been.
Back in the 70s and 80s, the midlands county were a big player in Leinster. Take the summer of 1985 for example when they beat Wexford and when the eventual All-Ireland champions Offaly were the only team who got the better of them.
Finally, they've shed the shackles, cut loose and embarked on a meaningful championship run again. Dublin were outhurled and they more than put it up to Tipperary.
Now is the important time though. They must not be contented with the progress they have made, they must be insatiable and they must chase down more and more gains.
That's all Eddie Brennan wants.
"There’s more gains out there to be got. That’s the big thing. There’s a lot of young guys in that dressing room and today is a very steep learning curve. You just have to say what can we take from that?"
“Individually and collectively they have to go away and reflect on that and say right where can we be in 12 months time. You’d have to say next May you’d be looking forward to a Leinster campaign where no one in that group is going to take us for granted. We have to take confidence from that but also realise there’s more work to be done.
“The guys inside there in the blue and white jerseys of Laois, that should make them chomp at the bit to come back in October, November, whenever it is you’re back. This is where the big learning is, these are the days that are the cruellest but you learn the most from.
"But I am thrilled with the players. They could have been forgiven for caving in there, and coming up to half-time, it looked like we were going to be in for a bit of a clipping. But they stayed at it, that is what they have done all year and what we asked them as a management team to do, to see a job right out to the end, no matter what is happening.
“And to a man today, they did when their arms and their legs were screaming out at them, that there was nothing left. I am absolutely thrilled with them, very proud of them. They represented their county with pride there against quality opposition."
The Kilkenny man is hoping the team's brave display, as well as the excitement their run created within the county is enough to inspire youngsters in Laois.
“I’ve certainly never seen a team get a standing ovation like that before,” (The Tipperary players applauded the Laois lads off the field too)
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) July 14, 2019
"Fair play to them, they’re acknowledging the supporters. I know we don’t often see that in the GAA but it was good for the lads to acknowledge it. There’s a good bond there now and one is supporting the other and the other is performing to do what they do and represent Laois very well and that’s great.
A huge roar from the Laois fans in the Hill as Jack Kelly earns the man of the match and their team does a lap of honour
Some journey pic.twitter.com/hV8AtdC14h
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 14, 2019
Strength and conditioning is an area where he sees potential for improvement while he acknowledges that the step up from the Joe McDonagh was steep.
“I think what was obvious there today was probably we’re coming from a lower base as regards our strength and conditioning and that. When you’re getting two or three years of good conditioning under you, that’s where you benefit. That’s so important coming down the straight.
“That’s not a criticism, that’s education, that’s learning and we have to take cognisance of that going forward and learn from that.”
“I wouldn’t be any way critical of the players but that was a very steep learning curve for them. When you play quality in a place like Croke Park, all those little mistakes that you might have got away with at Joe McDonagh level, they are punished very hard.
The Dunphy red didn't help, but he didn't see it as a game-changer.
“I have seen it inside, and yeah there was a bit of contact with the hurl. I have been on the receiving end of those loads of times and I have never seen a lad getting sent off, but it is not going to be a case of saying that was the reason.
“It certainly made our task really, really difficult. And at that stage, you are even going, you could be in for a long evening. In fairness to the lads, they stuck at it.
“It probably did have an impact on us, it took the pressure off Tipp and we had been putting them under pressure at times. But they are a quality outfit, they did what they had to do and to be fair to them, they did not take us for granted in any way, shape or form and they stuck at it.”