McConville and Moran enlisted to lift Laois gloom
Eamonn Kelly is leaving nothing to chance, writes Michael Verney
When Ollie Moran's phone rang last winter, he was left gob-smacked at Eamonn Kelly's invitation to join up with the Laois hurlers as coach.
Moran, a qualified financial advisor, was already kept busy with his own business in Limerick, but the opportunity to cut his teeth at inter-county management alongside O'Moore boss Kelly was too good for the Treaty legend to pass up.
After a 12-year Limerick career, which ended in 2009, Moran (pictured) is thoroughly enjoying the change of scenery and his role as hurling coach, where he works in tandem with former Tipperary captain Conor Gleeson.
His teachings haven't fallen on deaf ears as Laois maintained their Division 1B status with an epic extra-time defeat of Kerry last month, and after swatting aside Meath on Sunday, they sit in pole position after two rounds of the Leinster SHC Round Robin.
"You get a phone call and you're scratching your head thinking, 'is that something I'd like to do or not?' It's great, it's been a great learning curve. They're a hugely honest bunch. There's a great backroom in place," Moran said.
"Everyone works really well together. It's like everything, it's just another phase of your hurling career after playing. Every day you're going out you're seeing that there's loads they can work on.
"But the great thing about this group is they're eager. They're mad to learn from whatever bit of information you can impart, so it's working well."
The regular games can only benefit Laois in Moran's eyes but qualification to the Leinster SHC quarter-finals, where they would face either Wexford or Offaly, is the real "barometer of progress" for this young side.
With an open draw offering no reward for finishing top of the Round Robin stages, it throws up the possibility of meeting Davy Fitzgerald's Model side, and the 41-year-old feels it's disrespectful that a semi-final meeting between Wexford and Kilkenny is already being viewed as a done deal in most quarters.
"We went down to Wexford Park on the back of two quite sizeable beatings from Limerick and Galway and with two minutes to go we were a point behind with a free to level it, so they were in squeaky bum territory," the 2007 All-Star said.
"Laois, historically, have no fear of playing Wexford, which is great. The fact that they don't see any fear, they will see that as a huge challenge.
"And the fact that they're being dismissed and written off to that extent, it can only motivate them, absolutely."
Moran has recently been joined in the Laois set-up by Oisín McConville, with Kelly confirming that Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland SFC - one of football's most potent attackers - will assist with the sports psychology side of things.
Former Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea enlisted the services of McConville's former Orchard team-mate Kieran McGeeney for a similar role with the Premier hurlers a few years back and Kelly is hoping McConville can have a similar impact with Laois.
"There was a few facets of our game where we felt we weren't working hard enough, our body language was bad at times and he's come in and taken a look at that," the former Kerry and Laois manager said. "All those Armagh guys are hugely mentally tough fellas.
"A lot of them have had full-time careers in that field. Oisin is a qualified counsellor. I find him very good for myself as well, he's a very good sounding board and the players really like him.
"I looked at it because of what Kieran McGeeney did in Tipp and that's the role that Oisin is doing for us and he's a breath of fresh air.
"He sees a lot of similarities in where Laois are at the minute with where he was when he started off his career with Crossmaglen and Armagh.
"They were of a team in transition and that's what the lads like about him, they see a lot of similarities. When I don't have All-Ireland medals, I have to get some people around me that have them so it's great, he's really added to the whole thing."
No stone has been left unturned with the calibre of individual coaxed into the Laois backroom team and Kelly and Co will be hoping the effort behind the scenes is replicated on the pitch in the coming weeks.