By Denis J. Croke
RELIEF was written all over Mike Quirke’s face in Ennis on Sunday evening. He had just seen his side hang on for a precious win and more importantly recover for a heavy defeat to Cavan last week.
It had been nip and tuck over the closing period when either team could have taken the win which was in doubt right up to the final whistle, and that was after Laois had held an eight point lead at one stage.
“You hope it wouldn’t be a one point game but their first two games were decided by a point as well and that is what they do here. We came out in the third quarter and tried to push on and trying to create a further gap than six points but we weren’t able to do it and that is credit to them and how they worked,” said Quirke.
“It was nervous and nail-biting stuff at the finish but we are obviously delighted to get the win and take the two points.”
With three games remaining Laois are now in joint second place with Roscommon, Armagh and Westmeath. But of more interest to the manager is the fact that Laois are now three points clear of the relegation threatened sides.
“It (the win) puts three points between us and the teams below and that is a lot with the way this division is going with three games left to play. Anything is still possible at the top and the bottom and that is the way it is supposed to be. It is really exciting for everybody.
“The beauty of the league is you can have a great result one week and down the next. We weren’t happy that performance against Cavan, particularly in the second half. But the beauty of the league is you get the chance to bounce back the following week and thankfully the lads did that.”
Having played two games since the defeat to Cavan, Quirke took the decision to rest the under-20 duo of Mark Barry and Sean O’Flynn, albeit Barry made a late appearance in Ennis.
“I was conscious that I wanted to protect the two lads. Sean played with a bit of a dead leg on Friday night and Mark is after playing three full games in five days so I didn’t want to make that four in seven.
“I think the set up is all wrong. If guys are under-20 and they are on your national league team, I think Croke Park need to do something where if you play national league you maybe don’t play under-20.
“Draw some line in the sand because otherwise you are leaving it up to players or management and I don’t think it is fair to the guys that are caught in the middle of that. There are no winners.
“If I had played Mark Barry and he did his cruciate or blew out his hamstring it would’ve been on my head and I wouldn’t rest easy with something like that. So we took the decision to rest them both.”
And given Quirke’s concern for his two younger players he must have been bitterly upset to see Cahir Healy leave the field in the first half.
Asked about the seriousness of the injury Quirke said: “I don’t know to be honest. He was moving very gingerly and the knee seems to be a problem. It is too early to say though at this stage.”