MICK LAWLOR COLUMN - New year brings new hope but let's give it time

Once again we start the new season living in hope; new management, some new faces and some old ones have returned to the fray as well.

Once again we start the new season living in hope; new management, some new faces and some old ones have returned to the fray as well.

This will be a tough year ahead, there is no doubt about that. Divisions 1 and 2 are very similar in the strength of teams, there will be no easy games and we will more than likely have at least one day where it may all go wrong. The one thing that we have to learn from last year's league is that each game is 70 minutes, so set out your stall from the throw in and never be more than a couple of scores off your opponents.

This was a major stumbling block last year, there were at least three games where we were down by seven points at half time, gave a great rally in the second half, and we deluded ourselves coming away from the game of what a great second half display we had given. This works only on odd occasion, because when you are so much behind in games like this, game plans are out the window, you throw the kitchen sink at it and end up learning very little about your team.

Players and managers learn little from this as it is more like a game that is played in the school yard. What I would like to see from Laois this year is a more structured and honest team, structured in the sense that we have a game plan the manager will set out, and as a team we follow it to the letter of the law. No doubt I and others may criticize it from time to time, but we are outside the set up and are only giving an opinion on what we see in the game. Sometimes players and managers can let it upset them and use it as a motivation to prove a point, if this happens you're really on the wrong road.

I also mentioned honesty of player. This has nothing to do with how hard a guy will train or prepare, it's an honesty that means doing the right thing on the pitch that benefits the team. I felt last year that we did not achieve this, and this sometimes is not the fault of management. You can set out the best plans, isolate the inside line, but when a team plays as individuals, there is little you can do.

This is not to say there was a bad atmosphere in the camp, quite the opposite. Laois will train as hard as any other county and will have a great buzz among themselves, but sometimes if you don't talk frankly at team meetings you're never going to resolve these issues. We did play like individuals last year, take it whatever way you like, but that is a fact.

We did have some good displays, but the Kildare game was probably the only one that we dominated. This team game is not hard to get corrected, we have some very talented players, but an inter-county player's life span is getting shorter, and the one thing any player hates having is regrets.

How will we fair in this year's league? Tough, is the answer. If you stand back and read the situation from outside Laois, we would be ranked as number five or six in Leinster, that is the reality of it. As supporters we are going to have to grin and bear it, and I think we may struggle in this division. We have given Justin McNulty a job to do in Laois, however, and it may take time. So we will have to all give him a chance and support his decisions.

U-21 opportunity too good to turn down

PJ Peacock recently contacted myself in the hope that I would get involved with the Laois U-21 hurling panel that he has put together.

I know PJ well and anything he gets involved in he gives it his all, so I was delighted and honoured that he contacted myself. As he as said, the face of both hurling and football is changing every year, so he felt a guy from a football background may be able to give a different point of view about what is required from guys who have an intention of wearing the county colours.

This will be very interesting for myself and is something I will be giving 100% commitment to.