By Denis J. Croke
SOME would say Eddie Brennan has ‘Kilkenny stamped all over Laois’ and that in itself would not be a bad thing even if the Cats might not be the indestructible power they once were.
You know when talking to Brennan that he takes his hurling seriously and that he likes to win but his greatest satisfaction on Sunday was for the players who have given him so much this year.
“It’s congratulations to the players, they’re the ones that went out and turned in the performance. That’s the most pleasing aspect for me, they hurled to their ability,” he said.
“It was a grind there in the first half for a while. There was, what I would class, as the Croke Park mistakes kicking in. The one thing I said to the lads before they went out was don’t be worried about making mistakes. That was the key message for me and at half time we just reinforced that message.”
And they obviously did reinforce that message because in that second period Laois were a different machine, more composed and less error strewn. Add to that the fact that all three forward substitutes introduced registered scores as if to reinforce their claim for a starting place next weekend against Dublin.
In fact all subs played their part in ensuring the cup was travelling south on Sunday evening.
“It’s a message we always have for our subs, that whatever stage you come in there has to be an impact. You get the benefit of seeing how a match is unravelling in front of you. That should be your info going in, it is what you’re trying to target. Eanna (Lyons) had legs and so had Stevo (Bergin) and we’re saying ‘lads flagging now, the energy levels are starting to flag’.”
As has been the case since Brennan took the reins, in true Kilkenny style goals have been plentiful and yet again those proved crucial against Westmeath.
“You look at the three goals, Aaron Dunphy’s, I mean he passed it into the top corner, he just picked his spot. Ross (King) the same, really clever finish, gave the goalkeeper no chance. Then Stevo (Bergin) just done what Stevo does, he’s just a real goal getter. It’s unstoppable when it skids on the ground like that. We’ve averaged plenty of goals in every match. By attacking is how you’re going to beat teams, you can’t sit back and expect to slog it.”
Laois must now face Dublin in O’Moore Park on Sunday and Dublin will be on a high after dumping Galway out of the championship in their last game, not that that is worrying Brennan.
“We should have beaten them (Dublin) that day (in the league), but Dublin are definitely a different animal now and so are we. We are up against it, but it’s one we’re not going to shy away from. If you told me at the start of the year we’d have the Dubs coming down to play us in O’Moore Park in a preliminary quarter-final I’d take the hand clean off ya.
“I think the players themselves will rise to that challenge. They’re that type of group to be honest with you. Their mindset has changed so much in the last few months that they’re enjoying this. In a way it’s a free match for them, they can really go and let fly in that as much as they let fly today.”