Sunday 25 September 2016

Character building essential to O Flatharta's Laois grand plan

Published 16/05/2015 | 02:30

Tomas O Flatharta takes his Laois team to Carlow
Tomas O Flatharta takes his Laois team to Carlow

Back in January, Laois were showing the kind of form that had many people tipping them for the drop from Division 2.

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They were losing games (heavily) to the likes of Maynooth University. That dismal form continued into the league but even as the unrest grew, manager Tomas O Flatharta was defiant, insisting that his side would come good.

The character in the side, he said, would ensure that.

Gradually they turned things around. The first two rounds were lost but they beat eventual Division 2 champions Roscommon in Portlaoise.

Six days later they came from seven points down in Navan to draw a game they might even have snatched. Laois were up and running.

"The first two games didn't go very well for us but we had a good turnaround then in the middle of the league where we had some very good performances and a great fightback in a few of those games," O Flatharta recalls.

"The second half of the league we would have been looking up the table having hopes of maybe going for promotion but a lot of teams were in the same league and that didn't work out for us in the end.

"What we really wanted to get out of the league was blood a few new players and also to expand our game as well and advance it, and I thought we did that."

And while there's plenty to go on from the spring, O Flatharta knows where they'll be measured. He recalls how his good friend Páidí Ó Sé didn't "give a sugar" about the league. Championship is where it's at and that starts with a trip to Carlow this evening.

Laois find themselves in a no-win situation. They'll be expected to leave Netwatch Cullen Park with a decisive victory but progress in the Leinster Championship could mean a meeting with Dublin at some stage - the Dubs have turned the province into a procession for the last decade.

That's a problem that O Flatharta will be happy to deal with if the situation arises.

"I'm not in the business of speculating. When you are manager of a team the focus is on our own team all the team and make sure our own team is prepared properly for any encounter we come across," he says.

"The first one is Carlow and that's where our focus is at the moment; that is a local derby we have to be very well prepared for, and anything that happens after that we have to deal with at the time."

Shipped

Although Carlow shipped seven goals against Meath last year, they are capable of raising a gallop for their neighbours. If it comes down to a test of character, O Flatharta is confident his side will have the answers.

"One thing that really stands out in all of our games is they have always shown great fight and great character and that's very hard to build into a team," he says.

"And these lads have it and we are optimistic now and we'd always be looking forward to the Championship. We expect them to bring that with us."

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