McNulty: Laois must lift game to beat Royals
LAOIS can forget about beating Meath in the only all-Leinster Round 4 qualifier clash unless they show a marked improvement at Tullamore on Saturday.
That's the verdict of their manager Justin McNulty -- and of beaten Leitrim co-manager Barney Breen.
The O'Moore County came perilously close to defeat by Division 4 outfit Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday. Laois, who played in Division 1 this season, scraped through 1-13 to 1-11.
Lady Luck and Leitrim errors were a factor in ensuring Laois stayed long enough in the match to press home their second-half territorial advantage -- but it was a close shave.
McNulty highlighted the 18 wides and the need for a big improvement against beaten Leinster finalists Meath.
"We dominated the midfield sector. Brendan Quigley was instrumental in that. He gave an exhibition in terms of high fielding but we didn't get the rewards from that possession," said McNulty.
"We'll have to look at the stats, and look back at how come we couldn't punish them (Leitrim).
"Obviously the wide count (18) will be very significant. We wouldn't be happy with the soft frees we gave away and the tackle count either, and the players know they have to improve on that.
"Our execution of chances wasn't good. But the effort was there and that's the thing we measure ourselves on every time we go out.
"Especially in the second half, the team raised their effort again, and that's something we can build on and improve on every time.
"We have to recover mentally from this one and then we'll talk about Meath."
Breen still feels the hurt of coming so close to a historic second qualifier win -- a week after breaking their duck in the back door series by beating Wicklow.
"We gave it the best shot we had and we just came up short. We're very disappointed because it was there for the taking," said Breen.
"We've come so far and we've just come up a bit short. We just couldn't take it due to our mistakes."
Regarding Laois, Breen admitted that their physicality and the size of some of their stars is a big plus for McNulty's team -- but if they play as they did against his county, then Meath will prosper.
"Laois will have to up their standard," he said. "We put a lot of pressure on them, but they'll have learned from that and they'll have learned from their mistakes."
Breen and co-manager George Dugdale will meet county board officials in the near future to discuss where they go from here.
They've done a great job, but further progress depends on reducing the emigration of young GAA players.
"What we'll do now is take a few weeks and see what it brings. We were in for a two-year stint, with a review after one year, so we'll have to sit down with the county board and see where next year brings us, but there is progress being made," said Breen.
"Our only hope is that we can keep some of the lads because every new year, we start off missing four or five lads.
"It's important that other people step up to the plate around the county and try and get jobs for lads."
Goalkeeper Cathal McCrann echoed those sentiments, adding: "The main thing is to keep this group of lads here in Ireland and give them jobs, because the problem is, boys are leaving.
"If we can hold this whole team together and bring back some other players, we would give Division 4 a good rattle next year."