'For certain pundits who have never coached in their life, we're a defensive team' - Carlow coach hits back at criticism
It's about a three hour drive from Tullamore to Down but Carlow coach Steven Poacher wasn't in the mood to make his regular trip home on Sunday afternoon.
Ensconced in an ocean of Carlowians, Poacher basked in the feeling of a tactical job well done after he and manager Turlough O'Brien combined to plot the downfall of Kildare, a Leinster semi-final clash with Division Four foes Laois a reward for their first championship win over the Lilywhites in 65 years.
His stock has never been higher, as not only are Carlow continuing to slay increasingly formidable foes, but now people in Poacher's native county - including Marty Clarke - are lobbying for the highly regarded coach to return home.
For now though, he is a willing scallion eater.
"Anybody got a spare house tonight? Because I’m staying!," he said.
"The people of Carlow have made me feel so welcome. It is well documented, my relationship with the county board in my own county. I had to get away from that because for ten years I worked with development squads, at minor level, at U21 level and a few things happened behind the scenes and I will be honest with you, getting away from your own county and experiencing a different kind of football is very refreshing."
Nobody would leap to the conclusion that Carlow are on the same trajectory once mapped out by Jim McGuinness in Donegal but there are parallels in their transition from year one to year two.
In 2017, Carlow focused on being as airtight as possible, which saw them keep Dublin goalless in a resilient - if reductive - Leinster first round display. Poacher is quick to argue that there has been an evolution in Carlow's style this season, pointing to the tallies recorded in wins over Louth and Kildare as evidence (2-17 and 2-14).
Sunday in Tullamore was one of the most efficient attacking display you'll ever see: 16 scores and zero wides. After shipping criticism during the league for the vigor with which they funneled back into defence, Poacher enjoyed a small bit of triumphalism directed at some high profile detractors.
"Last year I felt we had to get our defence sorted," he said.
"We had conceded too many scores in Division Four to progress. Last year was about building a foundation and this year was about trying to develop the offensive end of things. 2-17 against Louth, 2-14 against Kildare and for certain pundits who have never coached a team in their life, we are a defensive team."
Also in Poacher's crosshairs was the notion that the championship should be tiered, ringfencing teams so that days like the Kildare upset become even rarer. He is far more consumed by Laois in two weeks time than he ever would be by a curtain-raiser tournament clash that is a sideshow to the real thing.
"Look at that today – and they are talking about a B championship? How can you deny that? That is just special. Look at the children. You cannot underestimate the impact that this will have for this county. It’s massive."
"We absolutely dominated the league final against Laois," he added.
"We retained 100% of our kickouts, we broke 33% of theirs, we created 14 more scoring chances, we had three clear-cut goal chances but we weren’t happy with our one in three ratio. It’s something over the last few weeks we have worked on."