Laois manager Eddie Brennan has praised the character of his players following their preliminary All Ireland quarter-final win over Dublin in Portlaoise on Sunday afternoon.
Just seven days after their win in the Joe McDonagh final, the O’Moore County physically dominated Mattie Kenny’s side and fought their way to a 1-22 to 0-23 victory.
Given their celebrations during the week, many had written off Laois and had pegged Dublin for an easy win but Brennan maintains that his players were all focused on their preliminary quarter-final clash.
“I left here Friday evening after we had a meeting with the players and we announced the team. I rang Niall Corcoran on the road up and just said – ‘I think we are right here. I think we have them’ because they drove on the meeting, they drove on the training.
“They could have easily been forgiven for going through the motions. I wouldn’t say that about the players because they are not that sort of bunch but this was definitely a big blow for guys who have been down for a long long time.
“When they believe in themselves – that was the difference – and today right from minute one they were well tuned in. We said to them – ‘don’t be afraid of the occasion. Go and enjoy it. And go at it. If anyone is under pressure today it is the guys up the hall.’
Laois’ intensity was evident from the throw-in as they immediately attacked Alan Nolan puckouts, Charles Dwyer scoring the first point straight from the puckout. Alan Dunphy’s goal in the ninth minute proved the difference on the scoreline but it was Willie Dunphy’s solo run that excellently set up the score.
Oisin O’Rorke levelled the game in the 54th minute, however, Laois responded well through points from Dunphy and Kavanagh.
Brennan was delighted at how his team responded to the threat that Dublin posed.
“Right from minute one our tackles were right on the meat. We set the tone. To get a shot in the arm like that – a goal early – was brilliant. It as the tonic we needed.
“Every time Dublin responded we were able to go back up and keep punching. That has been a trait of this team all year long.”
The eight-time All Ireland winner credited their win to the character of the players and refused to take any credit for their performance.
“Today, on top of it all, we saw their spirit grow, something that has been happening all year, and it was said when I came up here initially that there’s a lot of issues but none of them were brought into our dressing room.
“The players to a man had each other’s backs no matter what they done. They enjoyed Sunday night. No problem and they enjoyed Monday as well but they came back in here Tuesday evening and not one of them grumbled or groaned. That was a sign for me that right, there is something here.
“I am getting a little bit of credit and I don’t want it. The players are ones that crossed the line, that drove it on. Our game plan is very very simple. We focus on being able to execute the skills of the game under pressure and under fatigue. They done that in abundance today when they needed to.”