Laois will play attacking football – Ó Flatharta
WHEN Laois and Donegal met in the qualifiers last year, the throw-in was delayed by 20 minutes to accommodate the large crowd shuffling into Carrick-on-Shannon.
Proceedings eventually got under way and, as both sides dug in for an uninspiring arm-wrestle of a game, the quip went around the stands that there was more enjoyment in the traffic jam.
Defeat for Laois that day brought Justin McNulty's three-year term as boss to an end. On his exit, the Armagh man took some flak for his 'safety-first' approach. It wasn't pretty, but it yielded promotion from Division 2 and an All-Ireland quarter-final appearance.
Colm Begley, one of the county's senior players, seemed to echo the Laois mood when he led calls for a more open style of play.
And ahead of his first league match in charge of the midlanders, which sees them taking on Donegal once more, new manager Tomás Ó Flatharta has hinted that they could be granted their wish.
"That seems to be a topical question alright," the Kerry native said of the clamour for a more open approach. "I suppose when I was looking at Laois I always felt that they had a liking for – and an ability to play – positive attacking football. They always produce quality players and there are some quality players there at the moment."
Ó Flatharta's Westmeath side were noted for their meanness, establishing a reputation as one of the most defensively solid teams around.
When he led them to a Division 2 title in 2008, they conceded an average of just nine points per game in the regular-season outings before they saw off Dublin in the final.
"I am aware they (Laois) have had a defensive system in the last few years and that is great. We will be requiring that, but you have to put up scores as well and to do that, you have to have the ball in a certain part of the field," he said.
"So, yes, we will be playing attacking football, but we'll also have to mind the house at the other end of the field."
Ó Flatharta was persuaded to return to inter-county management this year after his tenure with Galway ended prematurely.
He was given just 10 months out west, but has been assured by Laois officials he will be given time to put his own stamp on the team.
"In my first meeting with the county board, I kind of liked a few things in our discussions. They accepted that there was a need for improving things and they understood that it couldn't be done in 24 hours," he said.
"They also assured me that there would be facilities of a good standard provided and all the supports that go with that. That's all in place now and I'm very happy to be back involved."
It hasn't been an ideal start. Begley won't see action until the latter stages of the league as he recovers from surgery on a groin injury, while Conor Boyle is likely to miss the season with tendonitis in both knees, which can be attributed to long seasons with club and county.
On the plus side, Kevin Meaney and Ross Munnelly are in contention for the visit of the 2012 All-Ireland champions, with Ó Flatharta eager to hit the ground running.