Trust Your Players, Drink Your Pints - Two Brilliant Hurling Minds Tell Players Around Ireland What They Need to Hear 1 week ago

Trust Your Players, Drink Your Pints - Two Brilliant Hurling Minds Tell Players Around Ireland What They Need to Hear

“The head’s a bit tender all right… But a good tender!”

Shuttles.

Truck and trailer.

Drink bans.

Certain phrases can cause any GAA player to shudder at the thought of a worn-out, repetitive and probably useless exercise in the long run.

Balance.

At the heart of any great sporting team over the years is that one word. Absolutely; hard work, dedication, graft and sweat are the bedrock of any successful side. But so too are camraderie, craic and a positive atmosphere in the camp. You won’t die in your boots for a side you don’t feel a part of. You won’t throw your head in where others wouldn’t dare a hand for a manager that doesn’t trust you.

Laois are probably already the story of the hurling summer. They took down a Dublin side riding high on the back of dumping Galway out of the Championship in June. They never trailed in the 70 minutes. They did it their way. They deserve every ounce of credit.

It’s refreshing to see a county outside of the established few make their way into the final six. It’s encouraging to see a Joe McDonagh finalist win what many would have considered to have been a brief roadbump for Dublin en route to Tipp. But perhaps what’s most distinctive about this result has been manager Eddie Brennan’s approach to celebrations.

Laois have had two of their biggest results in the modern era in the last two weekends. The Dublin win aside, they also put Westmeath to the sword to win the Joe McDonagh Cup and guarantee Leinster Championship hurling next season. They’ve climbed the steps of the Hogan before their opponents this weekend have even played in Croke Park this summer.

They seemed to have a choice. A choice most so-called weaker counties would jump at, but a choice nonetheless;

Drink endlessly from the cup, blow the roof off the clubhouse and effectively concede the preliminary quarter final… or lock themselves away, delay the euphoria and hope it payed dividends against Dublin.

But why not have your cake and eat it? Or, your pint and drink it?

Speaking on Episode 4 of Corbett & McGrath’s Big Build-Up, both former player and manager came to the consensus that Brennan had hit the nail on the head with his approach.

Derek McGrath, whose Waterford side enjoyed many a memorable day during his tenure, noted similarities in his own management career;

“Looking after the McDonagh Cup final, in terms of the culture of enjoyment that's there, the lads were allowed out on Sunday night, they had a few pints on the Sunday night, they had a day out on the Monday, I think there was a story that they were in the Hawaiian shirts on the Monday, they had right craic... and then they were back in on the Tuesday, and the Wednesday.

"And then, even pictures of them last Sunday (against Dublin), enjoying the moment. I remember when we'd beaten Kilkenny for the first time in the Championship for 58 years in 2017, we were playing two weeks later, we still went out and enjoyed the night as it was in front of us, if you like. And I think that's what Eddie has done, that's what the whole team and the whole environment seems to be based on, completely enjoying it… I think it's very hard to overestimate what a culture of going in there on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday absolutely enjoying the whole friendships, everything that's part and parcel of being part of a winning environment and an enjoyable environment.”

This was backed up by Lar Corbett, no better man to talk about a winning culture;

“(After winning the McDonagh Cup) Eddie knew they were after doing something unbelievable, then they were after just beating Dublin which was unbelievable again. So, there's a way of harnessing that, and I was just listening to Eddie on the radio the other night and he went to the players and said 'look, we're gonna enjoy Sunday, but lads I'm putting it over to you as regards Monday.'

"So the players then have a choice; do we want more of the same or will we just go out on the Sunday and go out on the Monday and just forget about it? So when you hand responsibility back over to the players, and they're within the group and say 'right lads, we'll enjoy a few beers here tonight, yeah sure we'll meet tomorrow and have a few. But that's it.' Because the responsibility is back over to the players and I think you get people to think different. When you give a panel, when you give players and when you give leaders responsibility, they'll figure out the answers themselves.

"But I think when you put a total ban on things, you'll get 3 or 4 people to rebel against that, and they'll bring another 3 or 4 with them, and now you've nothing. So I think Eddie's after playing it very, very clever.”

These may be a precursor to bigger things for Laois, or they may be halcyon days around O’Moore Park not to be repeated for a generation. Either way, it’s fantastic to see players enjoying their success as it happens.

You can watch the full episode of Corbett and McGrath's Big Build-Up here,  where the lads take a look ahead to the Quarter Finals this weekend, how Cork can rip up Kilkenny's defence and why Wexford goalkeepers are never alone on the field...