No lack of enthusiasm for O'Loughlin as he gets ready for another Leinster SFC with Laois

Rory Delaney

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Rory Delaney

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rory@leinsterexpress.ie

No lack of enthusiasm for O'Loughlin as he gets ready for another Leinster SFC with Laois

Laois midfielder John O'Loughlin has been in excellent form so far this year.

A lot of things can fade over time, but perhaps the hardest fire to keep lit is the one which stokes your enthusiasm.

Time and experience can dull the senses, and it those among us who can fight against those forces which give themselves the chance to go on and achieve greater things.

The last few years could have done more to numb the enthusiasm of a Laois footballer than any in recent memory, but John O'Loughlin returns for his eleventh season with the county as eager as ever.

Playing under a new manager has become an almost annual occurence, and Wexford hold nothing new of note, but the one rare feat O'Loughlin and his team mates have done is put a run of seven victories in a row together.

It's not something that happens to often in Laois, and O'Loughlin admits it is a salve which heals all wounds on a scarred Laois senior football panel. “Yeah, you can't beat winning games, for every sort of thing in a camp.

“But look, it was Division 4, it was not where we wanted to be, it's probably where not a lot of people felt Laois should be, but we were there, and we had to get out of it.

“We got the bonus of winning all our games, but as John said, we need to probably get a win in the Leinster championship and after that we'll probably be looking to get another win in the Leinster championship which Laois haven't done in a long time, so that's really the goal now.

“We have a big game next week and it's 50-50, it's a big challenge for us, it's a big challenge for Wexford, it's going to be a stumbling block for us and we haven't met any this year, and hopefully we'll be able to overcome it.”

That he and others can keep coming back to this level after repeated setbacks is a testament to them all, but he acknowledges how tough it can be when a season falls apart despite all the effort which has gone in to ensuring that doesn't happen. “It's hugely, hugely disappointing when you're training and it doesn't come off, and you get beatings that you're not proud of. To be honest, there's nothing worse.

“But then when you get good championship victories, there's nothing better.

“Again, it's the highs and the lows, but I'm just really looking forward to this year. Let's get a bit of a buzz around Laois football again. It's sort of crackling in the pot there at the moment, ready to burst, so let's do that, and it's up to us to do that.”

When O'Loughlin first stepped into the Laois setup, the aim was Leinster championships and to compete with the best in the country. The landscape is a lot different now, and nobody is expecting Laois to contest for provincial honours.

With Dublin on the other side of the draw some may feel there is a chance there for Laois to get to a final, but O'Loughlin knocked any hint of that on its head right away. “No, we can't be hinging on Dublin and worrying about Dublin.

“Dublin are a super team. They are a Premier League organisation in an amateur sport and we can't let can't let our season hinge on whether we beat Dublin or not. We have to just look at Wexford.

“I don't think Laois have won two matches in a row in Leinster since 2007, that's a fair statistic, so let's try and get a victory next week and wouldn't it be great if Laois got two wins in a row in Leinster, and got back to Croke Park for a Leinster semi-final. That would be brilliant.

“It's a huge, huge challenge. We've had challenges like that in the past few years that we haven't overcome, so hopefully we're mentally right and can overcome that challenge this year.”

With John Sugrue at the helm Laois have made progress this year, and O'Loughlin credits the Kerry man's arrival with a clear upturn in fortunes. “There's always going to be something different because every manager has his own way of doing things. With a manager, the way I see it is, you have to buy into what he is trying to do.

“I think John was wanted by most people in Laois. I think everyone in Laois wanted John Sugrue as manager, so straight away there is a buy-in there, and there's a buy-in from the players, and there is just a good collective at the minute.

“I think the London match, I know it was London, but that match I thought we were in trouble, but maybe Laois of a few years ago wouldn't have won that day. Carlow, both days arguably, we were in trouble and Laois of the last few years probably wouldn't have won those days. They were three huge victories.

“I really think the other matches weren't competitive matches, let's be honest it, but those three matches, the way I see the league, were three matches we were in bother in with ten minutes to go and we came out with three victories. So let's build on those three victories.”

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