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Brigid's vow to fix back trouble

UNLIKE his St Brigid's team-mates, John O'Loughlin knows all about facing Portlaoise in championship combat. He still doesn't know what it's like to beat them, mind you, but he's hoping that's all about to change on Sunday week.

The Dublin champions' Laois import put in a typically lung-busting display on Sunday, as Brigid's recovered from a worrying first-half wobble against Horeswood to book their place in the last-four of the AIB Leinster club SFC.

That heavyweight semi-final takes place in Parnell Park on December 4, affording O'Loughlin a chance to achieve something he never quite managed while playing for his native Mountmellick in Laois.

"When I was with Mountmellick, we met three times in championship and lost the three games. Portlaoise were always that step ahead of us," he told the Evening Herald.

"They have won five Laois championships in a row - I think that speaks for itself. Every year they are there or thereabouts for the Leinster title.

"One day it could be one (Portlaoise) lad stepping up to the plate, and the next day it could be someone totally different. They have guys coming in from the bench that can change a game. It's going to be a serious battle, but we will give it the respect it deserves," he assured.

O'Loughlin is relishing his new life with Brigid's, where he doubles as a full-time club coach while also starring for their senior footballers and hurlers. His on-off-on again transfer, first mooted last February, eventually went through at the start of July.

"It couldn't have gone a whole lot better," he enthused. "It's a great club and I'm really enjoying it.

"I love the job I do with them; I'm really enjoying the football and we had a good run in the hurling. It's been a good year so far - and hopefully it will get better."

To do so, however, they must absorb some harsh lessons from last Sunday's roller-coaster victory over Horeswood. To score 1-20 at this time of year underlines their attacking potential; yet to leak three first-half goals provides a stark warning of what Portlaoise could do if concentration levels start to waver again.

As O'Loughlin admitted: "It was frustrating because we did dominate the first-half. They really got three goals against the run of play.

"But we came out on the right side of it."

While their final tally constituted "serious scoring" by the forwards, he warned: "If we give Portlaoise three opportunities like that to score goals, I don't think Portlaoise will let St Brigid's score 1-20.

"Portlaoise are favourites for Leinster, so we have to tighten up."

On a more positive note, he added: "I think our backs and our goalkeeper, Shane Supple, have got us through a lot of games -- keeping Plunkett's to eight points and Crokes to seven points. We let in three goals (on Sunday) but I'd be surprised if a team scores three goals again against that back line."

Having played six weekends running, and for seven of the last eight, O'Loughlin confirmed that most of his teammates were "grateful" to have a weekend off before facing the Laois kingpins.

Whenever this club odyssey ends, he has recommitted to the Laois senior footballers under Justin McNulty next season.

Teddy McCarthy - himself a dual legend with Cork and newly installed as Laois hurling boss - phoned the player last week to ascertain his intentions for 2012, but was told he will be concentrating on football for the moment.

O'Loughlin last tried to juggle both codes at senior inter-county level in 2010.

He hasn't ruled out a return to hurling at some stage but, even though he's no longer under-21 or playing Sigerson, it definitely won't be happening next year.