Sugrue insists Brody still permitted to take flight
This time last year Laois were immersed in a Leinster football championship campaign and a probable semi-final with Carlow in the knowledge that they had twice beaten them in the league a few weeks earlier.
Now they find themselves with the roles reversed, facing a Westmeath side in one of Sunday's quarter-finals in Tullamore, having lost to them twice during their recent Allianz Division 3 campaign.
It presents the opposite psychological challenge that they found themselves facing last year and for manager John Sugrue the importance of it is their "make-or-break" game of the season.
"We really think we can be competitive with Westmeath but really thinking it and really being it are two very different things," said the Kerry native, now living in Laois.
"Our year hinges on it. We really need to get to grips with it. Have we been productive to date? Yes. Have we been as productive as we'd want to be? No. It depends on what you are happy with," he continued.
"If you are happy with a mediocre season where we have got ourselves out of Division 3 into Division 2, if that fulfils your appetite then we won't beat Westmeath."
When they last played in the league final at the beginning of April, one of the pivotal moments was the Westmeath goal during the second half, created from a miscued free taken outfield by Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody.
Brody has brought an added dimension to goalkeeping with his regular forays into opposition territory to join the play but this error and its consequences shone another light on the practice.
Sugrue defended the All-Star nominee after the game and again ahead of this renewal, suggesting the goal should still easily have been prevented.
"Graham wears a white jersey, the rest of the boys wear a blue jersey. Graham comes out the field, he kicks a ball away, it gets magnified completely," he said. "The other boys kicked a ball in the same game, and we had loads of guys, we sat down and watched the video and loads of fellas kicked the ball away and no one got lambasted like Graham did. To my mind, it's slightly skewed and the reaction was magnified by the colour of the jersey he had on.
"On any given day, if Graham takes 100 frees he's probably going to plant 99 of them. It wasn't the mechanics of what he did, necessarily coming up out of goal, it was just the execution of a free-kick that went wrong. This is not being ultra-defensive of Graham, he has to look at what he is doing as well and wonder where the productivity lies in it and we have to look at that but it got magnified completely.
"We conceded a goal from that move but there was probably four or five other fellas who made very poor decisions, either in the lead-up to the turnover or three or four fellas who left a fella pass them by in the aftermath. The blame for that was so widespread that every fellas need to take heat."
Sugrue has had a progressive 18 months with Laois, taking them to Division 2 and feels bringing some structure to their play has been the most important development.
"In any team if you don't have structure, you will have chaos. If you send people out in the morning to do a job in an office or on a farm and let all 15 people interpret what job needs to be done in their own way then you are going to have chaos - 15 people will look at one job to do 10 different ways and you only get two or three people who share an opinion on it.
"You have to have structure and you have to have an expectation of how the team is going to play and how the team is going to do things as a group."
Evan O'Carroll has improved within that structure but his manager feels he has even more to give.
"I personally think there is more in him and we can get it out of him. He's a talented lad, no doubt about it, but we have to get talented lads absolutely maximising themselves. Certainly most of our guys, there's another little bit in them.
"We've got ourselves to the point where we got promoted with a little bit of luck this year to Division 2 but you can't pull the handbrake now, you have to push on and see how far you can go."