Former Kilkenny hurler, Eddie Brennan, has said that his first goal as manager of the Laois senior hurlers is to make sure the team stay in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League.
It will be a formidable task for the side considering this year’s pool contains not only All Ireland finalists, Galway, but last year’s relegated team, Waterford. Brennan maintains that while the team will not have unrealistic expectations in the build-up to such games, they must prove their worth against the best.
“There’s a huge challenge there. In the league on the 27th of January we’re going up to Galway and six days later we’ve Waterford coming to Portlaoise so you’re focused very quickly. You have to be. We have to go into those matches and gain something from them. You’re not going to come out and make any stupid statements and say, ‘we’re going out there to beat someone like Galway.’ You’re going in there to those matches to prepare lads to give a good account of themselves, be as good as they can be and be competitive.”
Following on from the league, Laois will face into the Joe McDonagh Cup having been relegated from the Leinster championship during the summer after winning just two of their five matches. There are five teams in this year’s competition, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Antrim and Kerry. The top two teams from the group will contest the final and will book their spot in the All Ireland quarter-final while the winner will be promoted to the Leinster championship for 2020.
“Obviously, the Joe McDonagh is our big competition, that’s our championship, that’s the one that we’re going to be ultimately measured on and you’re gearing towards that. The league, I think it’s an absolute must that we stay in 1B and I’d love to make a quarter-final as well. So that’s something that’s there, that’s a realistically achievable goal but standing in our way is a couple of right good teams.”
Brennan is no stranger to inter-county management have led Kilkenny’s U21 squad for two years. He is one of a number of former-Kilkenny players to have made the transition to coaching having learned from one of the game’s greatest, Brian Cody.
“People are often fierce curious about his style, about what goes on, if you could see how simplistic and straightforward Brian Cody’s approach has been, for me, it’s about the basics, if you bring that alone, that’s the starting point. Obviously, you can put your own spin on things and what you see as important things, you have to be your own man too. That’s probably the challenge there, can you add little bits, what did you learn from that?”
So if Laois were to qualify for the quarter-finals and found themselves up against the Cats, how would Brennan feel about facing his former manager?
“In a way, you’re hoping that that won’t happen, in some regards. But, at the same time, you enlist, you soldier, it’s as simple as that. If it happens, it happens, and that’s just the nature of it. I don’t know what it’d be like to have him staring down the sideline at you, it was bad enough having him staring across the pitch at you when you weren’t performing! Look, I suppose where we’re tucked in at the moment, the only way that might happen is if you were to qualify for a league quarter-final, you might run into them, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Laois get their Allianz National Hurling League campaign underway against Galway on January 27 in Salthill.