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Phelan: “That Feeling, I’ve Never Felt It In A Laois Jersey Before”

Joe Phelan Laois

They may have won silverware the previous week, but it was the final whistle in Portlaoise last Sunday that signalled the biggest celebrations the Laois hurlers have ever experienced. 

Their two-point win over Dublin puts them in their first All Ireland quarter-final in 40 years, something few outside the camp thought possible.

However, for the players involved, that belief was a constant factor throughout and the only thing that took them by surprise was the scenes at the end of the game.

“It was just pure pandemonium. We were jumping around with the players and next thing a wave of fans, a wall of them just met you. We were out there celebrating for nearly an hour”, said Joe Phelan at the launch of the All Ireland series.

“It was just an unbelievable feeling, that adrenaline. To see all the supporters so happy and for the players to finally get over the line in a big match was a fantastic feeling.

“We always believed we could do it. We came so close so many times with Laois over the last couple of years. Just to finally get over the line in the big one just makes it all worth it.

“That feeling, I’ve never felt it in a Laois jersey before.”

It has been quite a journey for the county since Eddie Brennan took charge at the end of 2018. They gave a good account of themselves in Division 1B of the Allianz League and reached the quarter-final stage of the competition.

However, their goal for the year was to win the Joe McDonagh Cup and return to the Leinster Championship in 2020 and they did that in style, beating Westmeath 3-26 to 1-21 in the decider in Croke Park.

Considering that the final was Laois’ first trip to Jones’ Road in 14 years, it is remarkable to think that the county will return there on Sunday for their second trip in a matter of weeks.

The challenge facing them is a formidable one. Tipperary have been one of the top performing teams throughout the championship, losing just one game, the Munster Final to Limerick.

It will be Laois’ third major test in three weeks but Phelan insists the team won’t be using that as an excuse and are relishing the chance to return to Croke Park.

“A couple of weeks ago, a lot of us hadn’t played in Croke Park and now we’re back there twice in three weeks, it’s just been an unbelievable season for the hurlers and the Laois supporters. I was talking to a couple of them and they’re broke following us this year!

“It’s something they’re going to have to look at, there should definitely be a two-week break after the McDonagh Cup final. That was our main target for the year and when you achieve that, you go out and celebrate it. Then you have to go again the next weekend, you should really get more time.

“Three weeks in a row is a bit much but we can’t use it as an excuse, we’re just going to have to refocus and see what happens on Sunday.

“They’re serious opposition. They are going to be a bit frustrated after the way they went down in the Munster final, they’ll probably bring a bit of anger into the game.”

Laois deployed John Lennon in the sweeper role against Dublin and are likely to do the same against Tipperary given the strength of their attack. Phelan admits that the team have been getting used to playing in a new system under their new management and he is delighted that they are reaping the rewards.

Niall [Corcoran] and Eddie must have sat down at the start of the year and said ‘this is the way we’re going to play.’ We work on it in training all the time, working it out.

“We set up a bit differently against Dublin than we usually would but that’s just trying to find the man in the best position.

“All the teams are doing that now, Limerick, if you watch them and Cork, they’re all playing this short, possession game and we’re just following suit and it’s working well so far.”

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter