Friday 19 January 2018

Foley's words encourage Kelly to boss from stands

Laois manager Eamonn Kelly. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Laois manager Eamonn Kelly. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

If Laois end up being drawn to play Wexford in the Leinster SHC quarter-final later this month, there could be an inter-county first in the GAA as both managers will be performing their duties from the stands.

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald will have no choice in the matter having accepted an eight-week sideline ban for an on-field altercation with Tipperary's Jason Forde but Eamonn Kelly's choice is totally voluntary.

It's the done thing in rugby but a rarity in the GAA and having regularly manned the line during his reigns with Kerry and Offaly, Kelly felt the need to move to a higher perch after the death of his good friend Anthony Foley.

Kelly spent a year as a "fly on the wall" of the Munster rugby set-up and met the Irish legend once a week "to shoot the breeze" before his passing finally made up his mind to take Foley's advice and station himself in the stands.

"I think it's a lot easier to see the body language of players and see the way a team is setting up against you. Last year we had a few hairy days on the sideline where you maybe have an opposition manager roaring in your ear and you lose your concentration," Kelly said.

"One of my best mates was Anthony Foley and Anthony was always saying to me, 'Your job isn't done if you think you have to add value the day of a game, get back up and have the information beside you'. When he passed away I said, 'S**t, I need to take heed of this', and I find it great to be honest."

It's not an approach Kilkenny maestro Brian Cody will ever implement with the 11-time All-Ireland-winning boss believing that "you are brought up with it, it's something you always do at club matches, everybody stands on the line and I like it there", but it works for Kelly.

The Tipp native will hope it continues to pay dividends when he makes the familiar trip to Tralee on Sunday and while their qualification from the Leinster round-robin stages looks probable with two wins from two and healthy plus 18 scoring difference, they won't be taking anything for granted against Kerry.

Kerry and Meath both lie on two points, with the Kingdom sitting second by way of their marginally superior five-point scoring difference while Westmeath have yet to register a win. If the Royals overcome Westmeath then Kerry must deliver another stellar performance against Laois.

The O'Moore men lost Division 1B league clashes to Kerry two years in a row before exacting revenge in an epic 1-30 to 4-20 relegation play-off win after extra-time so Kelly might struggle to keep his place in stands.

Irish Independent

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