Friday 19 July 2019

Laois gearing up for biggest day in 34 years as 'incredible buzz' grips county ahead of Tipp showdown

Aaron Dunphy, right, and Joe Phelan of Laois, celebrate beating Dublin
Aaron Dunphy, right, and Joe Phelan of Laois, celebrate beating Dublin
Pat Critchley played in the 1985 Leinster final. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The largest Laois crowd at a hurling game for at least 34 years will flock to Croke Park on Sunday for the clash with Tipperary in a novel All-Ireland quarter-final pairing.

Blue-and-white clad supporters made up a sizeable part of the 32,123 attendance at the 1985 Leinster final with Offaly, which was Laois's last major championship occasion, but even greater numbers are expected this time.

"From early on Monday morning the demand for tickets has been building. Everyone wants to be at Croke Park on Sunday. The buzz is incredible. The U-20 footballers reaching the Leinster final on Tuesday night has added to the excitement in the county," said Niall Handy, county secretary.

Away from the growing sense of anticipation in Laois that another magical day could unfold, Eddie Brennan and his squad are working hard to ensure that they retain a clear focus for the massive test.

Fears have been expressed that the busy schedule - this will be their third game in 15 days - combined with the emotion which erupted after the win over Dublin, could leave the squad drained of energy, but that has been rejected by Pat Critchley, who played in the 1985 Leinster final.

"The adrenalin rush they got last Sunday will carry them through and they'll feed off the atmosphere that's all over Laois this week," said Critchley who is the only Laois hurler to win an All-Star award (1985).

"Eddie has done a great job helping to give these lads real self-belief. They have the skill and technique, and they'll love the big occasion."

Together with many others, he has done a lot of work at juvenile and underage level and believes that this latest surge must be exploited to the maximum.

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"This can't be seen as a one-off. We have to consolidate and drive on. Hopefully, this will work wonders for every player's self-belief at whatever level he's playing," said Critchley.

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