Laois closing in on top-tier teams and the dilemma of facing Kilkenny in 2020

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

LAOIS MANAGER EDDIE Brennan is somewhat torn about how to reflect on the 2019 season.

Progressing to an All-Ireland quarter-final from humble Joe McDonagh Cup beginnings is certainly progress for the county.

The pivotal victory over Dublin which sent them through to the last six of the All-Ireland SHC is arguably the county’s greatest achievement since defeating Wexford in the 1985 Leinster hurling semi-final. 

They gave Tipperary a tough contest in Croke Park over the weekend and bowed out with honour after battling for most of the second half with 14 players.

And yet, Brennan can’t help but feel that Laois could have progressed further this year.

“Overall I suppose, the cup is half full,” he says as he digests it all.

We’d a massive year, all in all. That’s ultimately where it’s at right now. The competitor I’m conditioned to be, I look at that match and say ‘we could have got more out of it’.

“That’s the reality, and that’s the process of losing. When you do reflect on it, you see the bits and pieces.”

The Laois players saluting the crowd after their All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Tipperary.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We did so much good, the big takeaway was that we’re not that far away from the top-tier, and you’re kind of looking at it from the point of view that already, I’m looking forward to the National League campaign next year, because that’s where we’re at. There’s an opportunity to flesh out the squad even more.

“I was just very happy with them – a very young bunch of guys and the way they applied themselves, the fearlessness and how they embraced the whole thing. I think you could have been very easily forgiven to lie down yesterday.

Even with 14 men for long periods of that second half, we were game. That’s all you can ask for.”

Winning the Joe McDonagh Cup ensures that Laois will compete in the Liam MacCarthy Cup next year, and they will enter the round-robin series in Leinster. 

This means that Brennan will come up against Kilkenny, the side he represented with distinction for years until his retirement from inter-county hurling in 2012.

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Helping Laois compete against the top sides over a sustained period is a huge goal for Brennan, but the prospect of facing his home county in the league and championship will bring up mixed emotions.

It will be a weird one, because we’re going to have to play them twice, in League and championship. At times, I find it weird that I’m up there and saying ‘we, in Laois’. At the back of it all, you’re kind of going God, it’s a funny state of mind.

“That was possibly on the cards coming in at the start and I suppose you just go in with the mindset that you’ve a job to do. It will be interesting, definitely. For the players, it’s a great opportunity just to measure yourself against Kilkenny.

Eddie Brennan celebrating Kilkenny’s victory in the 2011 All-Ireland final.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

“We get to do that next year. That for me will be a great opportunity to test themselves and for the lads, it’s great playing here and there but to go to Nowlan Park and to go to Ennis to play Clare or wherever the road takes us, that’s where you’re going to learn and that’s what the players will want I’d imagine.”

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The Leinster SHC could be set to expand in 2021. The provincial council will meet to discuss the possibility of having six or eight teams in the competition.

Laois’ win over Dublin prompted a huge reaction to introduce a sixth team in the eastern province, and Brennan agrees with that suggestion.

It makes sense, but ultimately, you’re trying to grow the game of hurling and if you can flesh out your Leinster to eight teams, wouldn’t that be phenomenal.

“That’s what you’re looking for and to really support the Carlows, Westmeaths, Laois, Offalys etc. and to try and get a stronger competition. That’s what you want, more teams competing and more teams at that top level.”

Bord Gáis Energy announced two exclusive tours of Croke Park for Rewards Club customers with Kilkenny’s Eddie Brennan and Cork’s Brian Corcoran.

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