All county teams can learn from Carlow's way of connecting supporters more with players
Carlow are a county on the rise.
The green, yellow and red sea in the heart of Leinster is beating. The team is hungry, the supporters are starving and they're rowing in the one direction.
The momentum is with the county, the results are coming and the tide is only going one way.
Last year was a good year for Carlow football. For the first time since 1944, the south Leinster county were still standing in the championship in mid July.
After a colossal Leinster first round victory over Wexford, spirits were raised in Carlow and so were hopes and expectations.
— Turlough O Brien (@TurloughCarlow) July 9, 2017
They fought the good fight against Dublin, before dumping London and Leitrim out of the qualifiers. Monaghan survived a scare to progress past them, but you just knew they were only getting started.
And now they're rolling, with three League wins out of three games to their name so far, but that's no coincidence.
Carlow is a county at one with itself. The supporters rise to the players, the players rise in return.
"Expectations have changed in Carlow. The mentality is so important in a county. You take Cork or Kerry or Dublin and they expect to win every time they go out," said Turlough O'Brien on Monday's GAA Hour Show.
— Carlow GAA (@Carlow_GAA) February 10, 2018
Carlow is striving for something like that. They're going the right way about it with the positive energy infesting itself in every green, yellow and red soul from from Tinryland to St. Mullins.
"That has a huge psychological affect on your team and here in Carlow everybody is talking so positively about football and they're all getting behind the team. It came into play on Saturday night (in their defeat of Leitrim), the crowd got behind Carlow and our performance levels lifted as a result.
"Last year brought great colour and excitement, certainly locally. We wanted to build on that this year, we wanted to build on that relationship with our own supporters."
And that's exactly what they've done. Refreshingly, instead of employing the closed shop approach that we're so used to seeing from inter-county teams far and wide, Carlow welcome their supporters, they're striving to make them feel a part of the team.
An example of this type of positive energy took place at the very start of the year when the team held an open training session in Cullen Park.
Fantastic to see so many young aspiring footballers mixing on the pitch with the @Carlow_GAA seniors tonight in an open training session in Netwatch Cullen Park under the lights #allabouttheyouth pic.twitter.com/EpfYwyqZvw
— Steven Poacher (@Stevie_Poacher) December 29, 2017
"We decided we'd have a fundraiser night when we started back, and the lads were throwing around ideas and we came up with this idea of having those open night for the players and families and that.
"It was a huge success. We had hundreds of people there. Young guys and girls met up with the players and kicked ball with them. We've embraced the media as well, where other counties are doing the exact opposite, and I think there's a lesson there for us all. The media, they're not really your enemy, they're your friends, and I think that's important."
The immediate aim is to leave Division four a distant memory.
"It's time we got out of it, now. The lads are really tuned in now and they're really giving it everything they have. We're up for the challenge of it."
From there, the sky is the limit.
But they won't be going near a two-tier championship, the likes of which has been proposed. His reservations with the 'Tommy Murphy' idea, whereby the division 4 teams would be cut adrift are based on the ignominy of the Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups in hurling.
"These competitions get no recognition from anybody. They're off the radar. I think a tiered championship would be the exact same, there would be no coverage for it. Why don't we just go with our championship and our league as we've always done?"
He's a man with a plan.
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