Rigney puts Laois focus on building solid foundations
PUT down solid foundations first, then build the house.
That's the strategy deployed by Laois hurling manager Niall Rigney, who has presided over a promising pre-season campaign which augurs well for the Division 2 league campaign ahead.
However, he warns that squad-building is a slow process, one where sudden bursts of growth can sometimes be counter-productive.
"Naturally, I want Laois to be playing Division 1 hurling, but only if the squad is ready," he said. "At this stage, they're probably not. There's no point going up among the big boys and coming straight back down again.
"We're trying to get the foundations in place so that when we build on them the whole structure is solid and will stand up to whatever tests they come across.
"Panels in the strong counties are four or five years ahead of us in terms of strength and conditioning. That's an area we're working on, but we can't rush in. The average age of the current Laois squad is only 23 years -- we've got to be patient."
Rigney is pleased by the attitude he has encountered since taking over in mid-season in 2008 at a time when some players wouldn't join the county panel.
"There's nobody missing now, other than lads who are injured. The players know where we're trying to go and how we're planning to get there. There can't be any shortcuts. This is about putting down a base that takes Laois hurling forward in a sustainable way," said Rigney.
Laois are currently without Tommy Fitzgerald, Cahir Healy and Brian Smith who are club-tied with Portlaoise footballers, while James Walsh and Zane Keenan are injured. Keenan, regarded as one of the bright young stars of the game, sustained a serious leg injury last March, but is working his way through rehabilitation and is expected to be back in training by April.
Laois begin their Division 2 campaign against Kildare in Portlaoise on Sunday.