Turley sure Laois' new spirit can stun Meath
WHEN Meath's Graham Reilly turned Joe Sheridan's pass into the roof of the net in the fifth minute of last Sunday's thrilling quarter-final showdown, former Laois star Leo Turley buried his head in his hands and feared the worst.
The goal prompted flashbacks of the 1991 Leinster final when David Beggy also, in Turley's words, 'soccered' the ball to the net, condemning Laois to more years of football anonymity that lasted from 1946 until their 2003 provincial success.
"All credit to Laois for sticking at it, especially after such a bad start. No one panicked, everyone knew their jobs and they kept trying to do the right thing. That sets them apart from recent Laois teams. We have tended to implode when things went against us," said Turley.
Substitutes Padraig Clancy, John O'Loughlin and MJ Tierney kicked seven points between them on their introduction, a considerably greater impact than the Meath substitutes made.
And while O'Moore county manager Sean Dempsey has surprised many by sticking to the same side for tonight's clash, Turley believes having a strong bench will stand to them in Tullamore.
"Not many of those lads had Leinster medals from 2003 which is strange considering it's only six calendar years ago. But what they have is a tradition of winning at underage level. They are used to beating Meath and they don't hold any fear for them."
Talk of squad indiscipline last year was well documented in the run-up to the game but Turley insists that period is behind them.
"I don't know too much about the players' character but I do know that they have gone about their business very well this year and particularly since the end of the league.
"There has been a maturity about them and I think they are the happier side going into this replay than Meath."
Turley -- who hails from the O'Dempsey's club -- is well placed to comment on the Meath scene too. He is back as manager of Blackhall Gaels for a second stint after steering the club to intermediate and senior championship success in 2001 and 2003 respectively.
"Anthony Moyles was (at Blackhall Gaels) at that time before he moved to Oliver Plunketts in Dublin. He's a fantastic player and a leader but he's a victim of his versatility.
"I would argue that midfield is his most natural position but Meath never really seemed to play him there and I couldn't understand it, especially a few years ago when he was in his pomp. Himself and Nigel Crawford are the talismen and leaders for Meath."
And that Laois will go into this weekend's match with a real chance of setting up a Leinster semi-final clash with Dublin is a measure of how far the county have come.
Despite a number of near misses in his Laois career that spanned from 1985 to 1997, a single National League title win (over Monaghan in 1986) and a 1993 All-Ireland senior 'B' title was as good as it got for Laois and Turley in that time.
However, the 44-year-old did get his hands on a Leinster club medal with Carlow side Eire Og in 1999 and has since joined Kildare outfit Leixlip, where he trains an U-11 side and won a Senior Reserve 'E' title as a player last season.
"We took everything we could get at the time in terms of getting our hands on some silverware with Laois. We were getting to a few league semi-finals around that time but could never quite get over the line so winning anything was important to to us," he said.
"I think we were a team that would have benefited from having a back door because with Dublin and Meath around, Leinster was very competitive. We could beat a good team and then lose the next day to someone else.
"But I think this current team showed they were different last Sunday. The easiest thing for them to do was go away quietly after Meath stole a march on them early. But they dug deep, showed a bit of character, they are in a good place heading into the replay."