Bonnar pleads for 'realism' as Christy Ring heroes Carlow gear up for Laois showdown
Colm Bonnar won two All-Ireland medals with his native Tipperary but he could not have been any happier on those occasions as he was when managing Carlow to victory in the Christy Ring Cup against Antrim a fortnight ago.
Bonnar now sets his sights and those of his players on a challenge against Laois for the right to earn a place in Monday's Liam MacCarthy Cup qualifier draw which already includes the might of Kilkenny, Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford.
The prospects of a giant-killing act against bogey team Laois have gripped the Carlow sporting public, but Bonnar warns: "It's a big task for us. There's a lot of hype in Carlow and people saying we've a great chance, but there has to be a little of realism about where Laois are and in terms of where we're coming from."
Carlow's Christy Ring Cup victory brought them to this stage, while Laois topped the Leinster round robin series before losing the provincial quarter-final to Wexford.
The O'Moore County men have home advantage tomorrow, and also enjoy a 4-1 advantage from championship clashes between the sides dating back to 2010.
From Bonnar's perspective, the main task was getting the players to re-focus for this match after their 5-23 to 4-15 result against the Saffrons.
"It was a great achievement for Carlow to go up to Croke Park and win in such style, and score 5-23 was past our own expectations. To see Marty (Kavanagh) go up the steps at Croke Park and pick up the Cup on behalf of the Carlow team, it was an incredible experience.
"Even at the start of the year they weren't sure this was going to be a fixture for this year, so we didn't put much thought into it until the Wednesday after the Christy Ring final.
Buzz "We met with the panel and started trying to get our feet back on the ground because players were on such a high, such a buzz and the excitement of winning that we thought it would be hard to get their feet back on the ground.
"There's a hell of a game coming up for us, and we need to get our head around it and needed to start preparing again mentally and physically for it, because sometimes when you achieve something that you train so hard for, it can cost you a small bit. That was my main worry, but at least we've had two weeks now to work around it," said Bonnar.
Edward Coady, the former Carlow stalwart who captained Mount Leinster Rangers to their Leinster club hurling title back in 2013, has been impressed with the first campaign under Bonnar's management.
He retired in 2015 after a 14-year career hurling with great dedication for the county and commends the level of commitment and performance shown by the Carlow hurlers.
"In the first game against Antrim, the opening game of the Christy Ring, they hurled well but didn't show that little bit of a killer instinct that you'd need at a higher level if you want to progress.
"It was a little bit disappointing that they couldn't close the game out.
"Even in extra-time they were ahead by three or four points and they still didn't close it out.
"In subsequent games they done enough to win them without hurling spectacularly, but then again, it's all about getting to the final and putting in the performance that day.
"They topped it off with an outstanding performance.
"You couldn't but be happy with them," said Coady.
Bonnar, his backroom staff, and the players have shown an impressive unity of purpose. Do they dare to dream of toppling Laois? Bonnar won't go that far.
"We've seen them play, and they've been very impressive.
"They are playing in a higher division (1B) than us and they've a very good style of hurling.
"The Carlow lads are going to be tested in a way they haven't been tested before.
"I only hope we get a good response and that we keep our discipline, that we keep our focus, and that we keep our hurling to a good level."
Coady would love to see Carlow take down Laois.
"Laois have plenty of talent in their side, but I do feel that Carlow, with the quality they have, could cause Laois some heartache. We'll wait with bated breath."