Standing in the gym under O’Moore Park after Saturday night’s win over Carlow, Laois manager Justin McNulty didn’t pull any punches in his assessment of his team’s lacklustre four point win.
While admitting he was pleased to have gotten the win under his belt, especially in a derby game, the Armagh man knew that a repeat of this level of performance the next time out would be the end of Laois’ interest in the 2012 championship. “You have to take your hat off to Carlow, they fought for everything and they did give us a good game.
“Remember also that they are a team that Meath took two games to get over, so they are a good team and certainly you couldn’t take them for granted. I’ll re-emphasise, it’s a derby game, and in derby games anything can happen, but there’s no way that would be good enough for the next round of the qualifiers, but it was good enough for tonight.”
After the second half collapse against Longford back in mid-May, the win on Saturday night was the most important thing to fortify brittle confidence in the squad, and for that reason alone, mcNulty was happy to put the result ahead of the performance on this occasion. “We won ugly, but coming into the game if you had asked us if we would accept that and would we take that, we would have taken your right arm off for it. Obviously, I’m not happy at all with the performance, how could we be? But to win under those circumstances, in a derby game, you have to take it.”
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Laois’ play was how sluggish they were. On a couple of occasions they looked like they were ready to take control of the game, particulary in the first half when they scored 1-2 without reply to go three point ahead.
The domination never came though, and they were left to slowly grind down the Carlow challenge and take a four point win in the end.
Looking back on the game, McNulty felt that nerves had played their part in Laois’ flat performance on the night. “Probably there was an element of nervousness, from everybody involved, we knew what was at stake.
“It was the first game of the Qualifiers, it was knock-out, it was a derby game, and there was a degree of nervousness, and it was very flat.
“You have to attribute some of that flatness to the fact that it has been six weeks since our last game, we’ve had a couple of challenge matches in between, but trying to keep the team at a high level of intensity from those performances is difficult, and we didn’t manage it very well I would have to say, that’s true.”