Laois manager Eamonn Kelly.
Laois manager Eamonn Kelly was at a loss to explain the downturn in his team's fortunes, as they slumped to a second successive defeat in the Joe McDonagh Cup.
After saving their Division 1B status with a win over Antrim, Laois seemed to have set themselves up for a right good go at the Joe McDonagh Cup. However, they have really struggled in their two games to date, and speaking after Sunday's loss to Kerry, the Tipp man said. "It’s very difficult to put your finger on it where it’s going wrong, but it is what it is."
Continuing, he added. "The three goals before half time were the difference. I think we played better with 14 players than we did with 15.
"We just seemed to be tied up in our hurling. We’re training hard. As long as I’ve been involved in hurling I just can’t figure out why it doesn’t transfer from the training field to the match day.
"We’ll just have to keep honest in what we are trying to do. We have a quick turn around, we go to Antrim on Friday evening to play on Saturday."
After the loss to Westmeath the week before, Kelly admitted his side had a frank discussion during the week, but he felt their preparations had been going well in the run up to the competition. "I can’t say yes or no to anything. The lads are training hard. We’re trying to do the right thing.
"We had a very honest chat during the week about what happened last weekend and we trained well. I think it was possibly ten minutes of that game before half time where we lost Lee Cleere and Leigh Bergin – Leigh Bergin was sick and Lee Cleere did his groin – and we both of them coming off we were exposed at the back.
"In fairness they (Kerry) are a good side and they punished us with scores at that time, and that was the difference at the end."
A recurring theme in the two games to far has been a lack of cohesion, and at times, Laois look like they have never played together before. "Yeah, that's difficult. To be fair, Westmeath played well last week, and you have to give credit to Kerry today, they played well.
"I suppose we can look at the opposition forever, but we're not happy with the way we're playing, and that's just something we'll have to take, and sit down as a management team and see what we can do.
"Unfortunately I don't have the answers to say 'do A, B or C' and it's going to change, we just need to have a chat as a management team, they are a very honest group and we'll try to see can get a performance against Antrim.
"There's going to be a lot of teams beating each other in this group, if we go on and win the last three games we could still be in the shake up, and if we don't we're going to be in relegation, so there's an awful lot still to play for."
Having almost beaten the All-Ireland champions during the league, the disparity in performance is something which is baffling Kelly. "Yeah, we did (play well against Galway), and I can't understand (it), that's the part for me that's frustrating.
"Unfortunately I can't cross the white line, and I'm not blaming the lads either, I don't know, maybe we're doing something wrong, but we're searching for answers. We said today, we set a few targets for ourselves to hit, and if we can hit them that's what we can control, but unfortunately we didn't.
"I think today's performance wasn't as bad as last week's, maybe you might disagree with me, because there was that ten minutes where we lost two in our full-back line and a third one was sent off, and the punished us with the three goals, because they are a good side, and that had a huge bearing on the final result."
Laois have little time to feel sorry for themselves, with a trip to Antrim coming up this Saturday. "It is a big trip, but if we go up with a defeatist attitude we have no chance. We didn't come down here to lose, we didn't come down to give that performance, but it is what it is, we have to just try to keep our shoulder to the wheel.
"I've a lot of time for those players, they are as disappointed with that performance as I am, and maybe they're disappointed in my performance, we're all disappointed, but we have to stay with this thing."
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