After the final whistle Laois players sank to the ground with the realisation that months of sacrifice and intense preparation had come to a bitterly disappointing end, but manager Cheddar Plunkett quickly had them in a huddle surrounded by family, friends and supporters. He thanked them for their commitment and explained to them that there would be days like this, but that there would be better days ahead and that they had to stay “knocking on the door until they burst it down.”
Minutes later he spoke to us of his own disappointment and how tough it was to have to make that speech to his players. “They have been an absolutely fantastic group of players who will be hugely disappointed. We came down here a couple of hours ago very hopeful and we had great ambitions. We talked through a lot of things that we wanted to do and would do but we probably didn’t execute them well enough on the day. It wasn’t the fault of anyone. Everyone genuinely wanted to win but it just didn’t happen on the day.
“Considering the amount of work put in I am terribly disappointed for the players. I just said to the lads there that there are going to be special days ahead if they stick together as a group of Laois hurlers.”
He had come with great expectations, but he met a very good Wexford side and a good start was vital. “We had the breeze in the first half and we didn’t get the scores with it, and then we had to go more defensive not to leak more scores, and for minors it is hard to pull yourself out of that. Even when we turned over just four points down it was terribly difficult in the second half to battle back against the wind.”
Laois missed a couple of early scores and even had a sniff of a goal chance but they went a begging. “The plan was to get scores on the board early on, particularly playing with the wind and get a good start to the match, but it didn’t work out like that. They came at us very strong and we were forced to look at some defensive stuff there and not to concede more scores and it made it very difficult.
“We didn’t play to our potential today and we know that. We know that we can play more open, fluid hurling than that, but Wexford were very strong and maybe didn’t let us play, but they are a good team and that is why they went up to Parnell Park and hurled Dublin out the gate, and I think they have a right chance of winning a Leinster final as well.
“Some day on a pitch like this all Laois hurling people will come to be happy that we won a big match that was difficult to win. Some day things will come right for us, and the day that we give up that fight is the day that Laois hurling will be in trouble.
“There are a lot of people around Laois who are not going to give up that fight and that is happening at underage level. If we keep working and doing the right things someday things are going to happen for us.
“Look at the Laois support here today and all year, but I think that they were a team that you would be interested in supporting but while today is disappointing, I think that they have given value for money all year and credit the players with that.”
One of Cheddar’s great rallying calls is “drive on” so does he intend to follow his own advice with Laois minors. “There is an incredible amount of work with a team like this and you really need to look at all aspects of your life and what you need to do, but if it is not me there are plenty of Laois people with their heart and soul in Laois hurling and that will want to drive on from here. We will take a few weeks of a breather and look at what we do from here on in.”