Defeat unthinkable after investing so much, warns Plunkett
Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett does not mince his words when he looks ahead to tomorrow's derby match against Carlow in the ultra-competitive Leinster SHC Round Robin series.
The Laois manager and his players knew had a tough game at Antrim last Sunday, but were devastated to finish up on the wrong end of an eight-goal thriller, losing 5-17 to 3-22.
A last-minute Ciaran Clarke penalty turned the game in the Saffrons' favour, and with Carlow losing to Westmeath the same day, the Laois-Carlow match is pivotal to contention for making it out to the 'real' championship stages.
So when you ask Plunkett about the consequences of failing to make it through the preliminary series, he is very clear.
"The match is very, very important for this group of players. Everybody has invested a huge amount of time, and a huge amount of their lives into this," he says.
"In terms of the development of this team it is very, very important and we're going to give it everything we have."
A hurling man to the core, Plunkett looks to the development of the game in the county and building the base on underage structures, but he also has to narrow his immediate focus on finding a way to get past Carlow and reboot his team's challenge.
That means results take pride of place above performance, much as he would like to see classic, stylish hurling and wonderful skills displayed by his team.
"I suppose it's the old conundrum. You could have great performances and lose matches, and that's not a whole lot of good to you," he explains.
"I'd rather take results and win matches and maybe not have great performance. Every team is preparing professionally and there is very little difference in how teams prepare at this stage.
"It means you don't have much chance to look at things and you've got to give it your best shot in every match. This is Championship hurling for us from here on in.
"You go out, you give it your best shot on the day and hope you get the win."
Antrim and Westmeath are in the driving seat in the Round Robin series - the winners of this series go through to play Offaly and the runners-up face Wexford in the Leinster quarter-finals.
"We're just delighted to be playing hurling, and I mean that honestly," says Plunkett.
"Obviously we'd love to win our next two games, we'd love to win the round robin and go through.
"A little bit of that is out of our hands now, but we'll be certainly doing everything we can to turn all of that around and get ourselves going again."