Sunday 18 August 2019

Laois inside-man plotting Dublin's downfall

Corcoran's years in blue are a secret weapon as O'Moore men chase famous triumph

Double act: Laois manager Eddie Brennan and selector Niall Corcoran (left) celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile
Double act: Laois manager Eddie Brennan and selector Niall Corcoran (left) celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

There's no need for any spies in the opposition camp ahead of Laois's preliminary All-Ireland SHC quarter-final clash with Dublin as O'Moore coach Niall Corcoran has more than enough inside information.

Having retired from inter-county duty with the Dubs at the end of 2016 following nine years in sky blue - claiming a League title in 2011 and a Leinster crown two years later - Corcoran knows the capital hurling scene better than most.

But, as he says: "It's one thing knowing what a lad is good at or what he's going to do next, it's another thing altogether trying to stop it from happening."

That is the challenge facing Eddie Brennan's side.

Corcoran's first foray into inter-county coaching came about after a quick chat with Brennan in Dundrum last September ended up in "three or four hours" of conversation about where they could take Laois.


The Kilmacud Crokes defender - who works as Games Promotion Officer (GPO) in the powerful Stillorgan club - had marked Brennan a number of times, and he would be joined in the backroom by another former foe, in selector and ex-Laois forward Tommy Fitzgerald.

Corcoran hadn't known Brennan or Fitzgerald off the pitch but "the thinking is very similar" among the trio, and their efforts were rewarded with Joe McDonagh Cup success last Sunday in Croke Park.

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Laois saved their best for last with a comprehensive 11-point defeat of Westmeath to set up their date with the Dubs in O'Moore Park this Sunday, just seven days after showcasing their class at GAA HQ.

Players were let "off the leash" on Sunday and Monday, and allowed to soak up a rare Laois hurling success in Croke Park. But they were back training on Tuesday and Wednesday with this weekend in mind.

"You were conscious that you had this game this weekend and while lads went and enjoyed themselves for a few days, they can't go and tear the a**e of it this week because preparation is key," Corcoran said.

"I'm sure clubs would love the lads to come around and show the cup but all of that has been put on hold because of the game. You're trying to get them psychologically tuned in for the huge challenge ahead.

"They've been on a high and trying to get them up again to face Dublin won't be easy. It's certainly not ideal and you'd love another week to prepare properly but we won't use it as an excuse, we'll go and deal with it."

Corcoran saw what silverware meant to the Laois people as he gazed into the Hogan Stand and watched Paddy Purcell receive the McDonagh Cup, but they have a chance to do something even bigger this weekend.

Such is the confidence that Dublin will prevail, many bookmakers are already carrying odds on Tipperary v Dublin in the quarter-final, but the O'Moore men will be doing what they can to cause a monumental shock.

Corcoran - a native of Meelick/Eyrecourt in Galway - knows what awaits and he was in attendance as a Dublin supporter at Parnell Park three weeks ago when Mattie Kenny's side ended Galway's summer.

"Dublin are in a good place, they were exceptional against Galway. That was a huge win and they'll be hoping to build on it. I was blown away by how physical Dublin were that night," he said.

"They have a huge advantage on us in terms of size and that's the way the Liam MacCarthy teams are going, they're just big teams and we'll have to be wary of that on Sunday

"That atmosphere in Parnell Park was like the old days when (Anthony) Daly was in charge. It's massively important for Dublin hurling to have those days and they are on a high."

One of the key figures that night was Corcoran's former team-mate Conal Keaney - both are 36 - and he is on guard as he knows what the Dublin stalwart brings to the table.

"He destroyed Galway in the air, they had to try (Gearóid) McInerney and (Joseph) Cooney on him and they just couldn't handle him. And whatever pace he had when he was younger, he hasn't lost.

"The one thing he brings to Dublin is his strength, he is so strong and what he's doing is not really a surprise when you look back at the club championship last year with Ballyboden (St Enda's). He's showing us that age is only a number."

Laois's primary goals for 2019 - to reach the League quarter-final and land the McDonagh Cup - have been achieved but Corcoran hopes they can step up to the sizeable task before them and learn valuable lessons for next year's Leinster campaign.

"This weekend isn't a free game but it is a chance for lads to go and play and see exactly where we're at. We're going to be playing these teams next year so it's a good chance to see how we compare," he said.

"It's a step up but if you ask any of the players, they want to be playing in the Leinster championship and looking forward to playing against Kilkenny, Wexford, Galway and Dublin.

"We're under no illusion that we've a lot of hard work to be done between now and then. From a coaching perspective, you want to be going up against the top teams and that's the same as a player."

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