Friday 23 March 2018

Fennelly laments Laois lack of heart

Cork 10-20, Laois 1-13, Daragh O Conchuir, SHC qualifiers

The whispers beforehand weren't positive about what Laois might offer and a mortifying 34-point annihilation by Cork confirmed the speculation. The O'Moores were in disarray.

As baseball legend Yogi Berra said, this is like deja vu all over again. Three years ago, Damian Fox cited players' lack of commitment for the All-Ireland qualifiers as his reason for resigning.

Brendan Fennelly seemed to leave the door open for himself to remain as manager despite feeling that an absence of dedication from players is a massive problem. He invited 30 players to attend his first meeting as manager and 13 turned up. It was a glaring portent of things to come.


"From the very start it has just been very hard work getting players in to play for Laois," said Fennelly. "You can't tar all players with the same brush. Certain players are very committed to the Laois cause but others aren't committed.

"Some feel they are in with the Laois team because they have to be rather than wanting to be. We had a reasonably good run in January, February and March but once the club scene started, players were training for Laois and their clubs and picking up knocks.

"Their enthusiasm dwindled and the danger was that this was coming if we met a team like that. It's a Laois problem. The county board have to address it.

"Players were saying to me that they didn't want to come in from the beginning and the minute you took a player off or didn't pick a fella they left the panel. When you talked to them after they would say they weren't really enjoying it."

Blaming the manager is the easy option, and the wrong one, he argued. "The reality is that I am the 13th manager with Laois since the mid-90s and you would make a very good hurling team out of all the managers that were there but it is not a manager issue. It is not about Babs Keating, Paudie Butler or Niall Rigney.

"They all wanted to be winners when they arrived here but they all got disillusioned very quickly. I hate finishing a loser and I would certainly meet with the board to see what can be done."

For his part, Denis Walsh was surprised by Laois' capitulation but still found areas that needed improvement, including the waste of three other goal chances. To be fair, the faultless Paddy Mullaney should be credited for pulling off some top-class saves.

He was also disappointed by some slack marking early on that allowed Neil Foyle get two points inside the opening minute, while Willie Hyland's 29th-minute goal had Laois just two points behind. Luke O'Farrell netted at the other end four minutes later and Cork were seven clear at the interval.

It was party time after that, with substitute Jamie Coughlan getting in on the act in a big way, bagging two goals and having assists for two more.

Paudie Sullivan and Patrick Horgan notched up three each and Sullivan's 16th-minute goal was the pick of the 10, his gathering of a Bill Cooper delivery with the stick before rifling to the net a sumptuous piece of skill.

Cooper was also the supplier for Horgan's first three minutes earlier and the debutant finished with 1-3 at the end of a polished performance. His 49th-minute goal -- one of five in nine minutes -- was a stunning effort and Walsh was delighted with the centre-forward's display.

"He was super. I'm delighted," Walsh said. "We had seen him in club games and he's still only 23 years of age. I was after him in October '09 but he was off to America for six months. I'm just thinking to myself that, my God, if he had another year under his belt where would he be?"

There will be significantly tougher tests ahead, though.

Scorers -- Cork: P Horgan 3-11 (0-6f), P O'Sullivan 3-1, B Cooper 1-3, J Coughlan 2-0, L O'Farrell 1-0, N McCarthy 0-3, B O'Connor, J Gardiner (1f) 0-1 each. Laois: W Hyland 1-4 (0-1f), J Brophy 0-3, N Foyle, M Whelan (1f) 0-2 each, N Costelloe, G Reddin 0-1 each

Cork -- D Óg Cusack 8; S McDonnell 7, E Cadogan 6, B Murphy 6; J Gardiner 8, W Egan 7, S O'Neill 8; T Kenny 7, P Cronin 7; B O'Connor 7, B Cooper 8, N McCarthy 7; L O'Farrell 6, P O'Sullivan 9, P Horgan 9. Subs: J Coughlan 8 for O'Farrell (48), J O'Connor 6 for Cronin (55), R Curran 6 for Gardiner (55), C O'Sullivan 6 for Murphy (57), C Naughton 6 for McCarthy (57).

Laois -- P Mullaney 8; JA Delaney 5, B Campion 6, C Dunne 5; J Fitzpatrick 6, M Whelan 6, B Galvin 7; J Walsh 6, S Burke 6; N Costelloe 6, G Reddin 7, W Hyland 8; N Foyle 7, O Holohan 6, J Brophy 8. Subs: S Dollard 6 for Holohan (47), W Dunphy 6 for Burke (56), J Prior 6 for Dunne (62), D Peacock 6 for Reddin (65).

Ref -- J McGrath (Westmeath).

Irish Independent

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