Not even 24 hours have passed since Laois were knocked out of the All Ireland championship in the quarter-final stage by Tipperary but Eddie Brennan is already looking to the new season.
The O’Moore County suffered a 2-25 to 1-18 loss in Croke Park on Sunday which brought their memorable season to an end. Just two weeks ago, they lifted the Joe McDonagh Cup following their victory over Westmeath and they pulled off one of the most surprising results of the summer when they beat Dublin seven days later to progress to the last six of the All Ireland series.
It was a hugely successful year for Eddie Brennan in his first stint at senior inter-county management but the Kilkenny native is not content to relish in their accomplishments and is instead focusing on how the team can improve next year.
“You have to take advantage of a bounce, no matter what it is. It’s probably getting, I’m not going to sit down and pat the back off myself”, insisted Brennan at the preview of the Bord Gáis Energy GAA U-20 Hurling Provincial Championship Finals.
“The process is that you did a lot of good things this year, but you also have to say what can we do to develop that? Or were there things we could have done a bit better? Could we have done more? That’s just the process. But you’d definitely say there’s a lot to be hopeful for.
“The funny thing is you’re saying your year is finished but yet you want to get to club matches now and start identifying talent and get your hands on other guys and look at a crew of young guys.
“If I go away and wallow in this, I’ll be codding myself and that’s the reality. I learned that from the best man himself that if we stay static, everybody just passes you by. It’s always striving for those little inches that are going to make the difference.”
When the 40-year-old took over as the Laois manager at the end of last year, he expressed his frustration that a small portion of players didn’t commit to the senior panel for the 2019 season.
Two players from @monaghangaa and one from @TyroneGAALive are nominated for the Electric Ireland Football Player of the Week, as the Farney got the better of their rivals in a hard-fought Ulster Minor Football Final on Friday. Cast your vote below! #GAAThisIsMajor
— Electric Ireland (@ElectricIreland) July 15, 2019
Brennan maintains he has no ill feelings towards those players but hopes that their recent success will make it easier for players to recommit come the start of the new season.
“That was something that did frustrate me at the time. In the context of hurling is not the be all and end all in life and guys are well entitled to make choices in life and I’ve no problem with that. I’ve no ill will towards the guys who didn’t commit but you would be hoping to enhance the squad and get a bit of depth into it.
“I have a crew there that are very, very good and when you give an effort, you get loyalty and it’s as simple as that and I will be sticking with them guys going forward but the reality is, the evolution of a panel is that it always has to change.
“If we stay static, stay at this level and say ‘it was good enough to win us a Joe McDonagh, it was good enough to get us to an All Ireland quarter-final, we’ll do that again, we’re going to go nowhere. We have to push the bar a little bit higher.
“If you got a taste of what they’ve got this year, you’re definitely saying ‘deadly can’t wait for next year, bring it on’ and those are the nights that test your character and test your spirit.
“You talk about the glamour of inter-county hurling, every time we went to Heywood on a Tuesday night last year, it just pissed rain every night and I was going ‘is this a jinx or something?’ But that’s character building too, lads are looking out at that rotten weather and you just go out and get on with it.”
Brennan admits that he found his first taste of senior inter-county management to be all-consuming and while he is looking forward to taking a step back for a short period, he is excited to hit the ground running once more.
“I had no grey in my hair when I started”, he laughs.
It’s heavy skelping, I’ve dipped the toes in a bit of it and nothing would have prepared me for this year. I had ideas of where I wanted to take it and I’m happy with the way it went but I learned so much from it, from Niall Corcoran, from Tommy Fitz, from Fran, from the players.
“It was a huge challenge and there are times when you do question yourself but it really is all-consuming. I’m not a big sleeper, I don’t need much to function and I just found myself awake at half four, five o’clock in the morning and maybe going to get up and just go because your brain activates and you’re just thinking through all the things that are coming.
“You’re looking at training, team set-ups all that kind of stuff, but that’s part of it. It’ll be nice to get a little switch off from that.
“I’ve a small family at home and they need to get their time as well. That’s the price you pay I suppose at times but it is what it is. You enlist, you soldier, it’s as simple as that.”
Sunday saw a pulsating encounter in Croker between @Galway_GAA and @KilkennyCLG in the round-robin quarter finals, with the below trio all in fine goalscoring form. Vote now for your Electric Ireland Hurling Player of the Week! #GAAThisIsMajor
— Electric Ireland (@ElectricIreland) July 15, 2019