By Denis J. Croke
FOR a losing manager to face the media after any game is never easy, and even more so after seeing your side dismantled in a final.
The disappointment showed in Declan Laffan’s face on the steps of the Hogan Stand on Sunday afternoon, but equally the pride in his players shone through as the interview progressed.
While admitting that the defeat had been devastating, Laffan knew Clough/Ballacolla had come up against a seriously good outfit.
“What can you say about them, Ballyhale are a serious, serious outfit. We started well and we had it back to a point at 22/23 minutes, then they hit us for two goals in a minute and the momentum all went their way.
“I think after that the harder we tried the less came off for us. You have to take your hats off to them, they are an exceptional outfit.”
So how did what happen affect the way the manager and the backroom staff were thinking?
“We probably set out to stay in the game, try get to the second water break was our target and see where it took us. We felt if we could get there a couple of points either way, we might have some chance but look they are an exceptional outfit and they punished us big time before the break. We had no way of coming back after that.”
Laffan felt that Clough/Ballacolla suffered because a few close calls Ballyhale have had in recent games, most notably their semi-final win over the Offaly champions St Rynagh’s. It took an injury time goal to force extra time and they cruised on from there. Maybe that was a wake up call.
“They got well forewarned. I was in Tullamore last week and I’m not going to say they were excellent. They were excellent in extra time and the ten minutes at the start but the other 50 minutes they were very average.
“And they even got a warning against the Carlow champions as well so look they knew. And then we had been well documented. Our achievement last week which was huge for the club getting to a Leinster final. Look it’s brilliant for the boys to get here but unfortunately we didn’t perform on the day.
One issue that dominated a lot of people’s talk after the game was how Clough/Ballacolla, while landing some top class points, never looked like scoring a goal, something that did not affect Ballyhale.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose the way we lost. We’re not that poor a team, things just didn’t go for us.
“We set up with a third midfielder to try and limit the possession going inside and turn it into a battle zone. But we didn’t really look like make a goal chance inside but once they hit us with the goals we had to open up and change our system a little bit and they exposed us. There’s no point in saying otherwise.
“You go through their forwards and one of them is scarier than the other. We felt we marshalled them pretty well for 20 minutes but unfortunately that’s what class does, it comes to the fore eventually.”
Despite the defeat the manager says this was a special year for the club, a year when they lost just one game, and that the Leinster final.
“It has been (a fabulous year). It’s been fantastic. To win two county finals in the space of 12 weeks was fantastic.
“I’m only down there since the start of 2020. I think we had three training sessions done and we got shut down until some time in June and then we kicked on from there and we got shut down before the county final last October.
It’s been a huge journey for a Laois team to go on. People like to go for the underdog and we actually have been the underdog most of the year. We like to prove them wrong but we ran out of gas today.