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‘I’m old-school in ways, a lot of coaches irritate me’ – Clough-Ballacolla boss Declan Laffan


Clough Ballacolla manager Declan Laffan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Clough Ballacolla manager Declan Laffan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Clough Ballacolla manager Declan Laffan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Declan Laffan will commence his new role with the Tipperary senior hurlers over the coming months, but Clough-Ballacolla have little interest in losing him heading into 2023 and they will do whatever they can to retain his services.

Laffan has led them to a famous Laois SHC hat-trick since coming aboard for the 2020 season and his simplistic approach has really struck a chord with the Clough-Ballacolla squad, as emphasised by star forward Willie Dunphy.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do to keep him, but he’s a shrewd operator. Nothing passes him, nothing fazes him, there’s no panic. We don’t do anything special, we come to training Tuesday and Friday and Sunday mornings, he makes it up as he goes along the trainings and it’s all business with him,” Dunphy says.

“But it’s enjoyable as well and he’s able to get the most out of every player. We used 22 or 23 players this year and every one of them are contributing when they start or came on. I don’t know what we’re going to do to get him back next year, but we’re going to have to work hard anyway.”

Dunphy’s assertion that Laffan “makes it up as he goes along” could be viewed as an insult by some, but the opposite is the case and the Loughmore-Castleiney native stands by his views on how hurling should be played.

“I would class myself a little bit old-school in ways. I think there’s an awful lot of coaches out there now that are trying to make the game of hurling way too complicated. It’s quite a simple game,” Laffan says.

“You can dress it up and do drills and stick cones here, there and everywhere but the moral of the story is that you have to score goals and points and you’ve to defend them at the other end.

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“I’d be a big believer in moving the ball quick. If it’s on to go direct, you go direct. If it’s not, you work it through the lines.

“You have to be able to play a little bit of both styles now in this day and age but a lot of coaches irritate me, I won’t lie.

“If you have a Willie Dunphy and a (Stephen) ‘Picky’ Maher inside, why would you not use them? It stretches the field as well. You can move the ball 90 yards in a few seconds, why don’t you use it and if you have big men like them inside and they’re really good finishers, keep it simple.”

Laffan will soon start working under Liam Cahill as a coach/selector – “and a psychologist as well”, he quips – as the Premier look to bounce back from a disastrous Munster SHC which saw them finish winless and bottom of the round-robin stage.

Having also spent a successful 10-year stint as football and hurling boss with Loughmore-Castleiney – with lots of success and a double in 2013 – Laffan feels like he has earned his shot at the big time, and he is intent on making the most of it.

“It’s new obviously and I’d like to think that I earned my chance to go in there, I’ve been fortunate to win here and obviously with my home club in Loughmore as well,” he says.

“I suppose the big problem people had with me over the years was they didn’t know if I was a hurling man or a football man because of the Loughmore ‘dual problem’ as we call it, but it’s a wonderful opportunity

“It’s wonderful to be asked. It’s a different time of the year and a different season. Munster championship is so competitive, we’re just trying to get a team ready and obviously we’re starting at such a low point – hopefully, things will only improve.”

Another crack at the Leinster club SHC awaits before his county duties commence and as for whether he will still be in Laois next year for a crack at a four-in-a-row, he feels the split season has helped to make such scenarios more possible than before.

It’s all about having good people steering the ship in his absence and you get the sense that there’s more to come on that front in due course.

“I haven’t put too much thought into it as regards myself, but I think it definitely can happen. I think if a manager is gone before an All-Ireland semi-final and he wants to go back to a club, he probably still has six weeks’ preparation for a first round.

“I suppose a lot of it would be who you have holding the fort until you get there. I’m fortunate that I’ve a couple of great men with these lads, we have lots of good guys all heading in the one direction.”

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