John Sugrue plots a future for Laois with a heavy dollop of realism in his management recipie for midland county in revival mode.
Gaelic Football interview with Laois manager John Sugrue
Another date with Carlow in Croke Park with the possible reward of a final showdown with All-Ireland Champions Dublin is top of a Kerryman's agenda who is following in the footsteps of Micko Dwyer at the helm of Laois football.
John Sugrue hasn't been in the Laois job that long, but a pattern is already emerging during the early days of his reign.
He will put his team against Carlow for the third time in his opening ten games as Laois manager, looking to add to his two previous victories.
After scraping by them in Dr Cullen Park, Laois were a little more comfortable in the league final, but this Sunday will be a whole different ball game. A fantastic win over Kildare has the whole country abuzz about Carlow, and Laois must now try to focus their efforts against a familiar foe.
While Carlow will undoubtedly be brimming with confidence ahead of the latest instalment of this triptych, Sugrue at least has some idea of what Carlow will bring to the table.
“Yeah we do," he told the Leinster Express in the run up to the Croke Park showdown.
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John Sugrue in Croke Park after Laois defeated Carlow in the Division 4 League Final.
"Carlow have been developing this technique of playing over the last two years and have become very efficient at doing that.
“They are probably at a further stage of development than we are in this moment in time, but in saying that we're developing in our own sense and we're going to try be as efficient as we can be, to some degree, when we come up against them, but without a shadow of a doubt a very stiff test lies ahead,” he said.
One of the most impressive parts of Carlow's win, and perhaps the most daunting thing to counteract for Laois, was Carlow's 100% conversion rate for shots at goal, and Sugrue paid tribute to their display against Kildare. “Yeah, it was very impressive.
“Paul Broderick had a mercurial day, he was absolutely fantastic and has been a leading light for them all through the year. Kildare might have played into their hands a little bit, and that's Kildare's problem, Carlow are playing a system and they are very efficient at it, and they will break you down if play into them,” he said.
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With such an efficient attack, Laois will be cause lots of problems by the physicality which Carlow attack with.
“They play to their strengths. They are very efficient and very well coached, they have a very well structured plan in place.
“It's up to us, we'll have to sit down and identify where their major strengths are and try to address them, to some degree, and likewise they are going to do the same with us. We're under no illusions as to the test that lies ahead,” he said.
While much has been said and written already about Carlow, there can be no doubting Laois have also made strides in the right direction. However, Sugrue is reluctant to place limitations on what this group are capable of.
“I will always say I'm not sure where we can get to.
“The next day is a huge challenge for us, and that's what we're looking at. We're not looking at taking on Division 1 sides, we're looking at the next day to see if we can get ourselves through one more round of the Leinster Championship.
“We can't point to any major, resounding performances recently against higher calibre opposition, so we're just going to have to find out, as we go along, how efficient we are at what we do,” he said.
For both Laois and Carlow, this is relatively new territory, with neither having much recent experience of Leinster semi-finals. While expectations will rise in Laois, Sugrue called for perspective as well.
“I think we have to look at where we are after coming from, we can't lose sight of that, we're not that long gone from there.
“We were in Division 4 this year, and we have done our job efficiently enough to date to get ourselves out of there. On merit, barring our first half against Wexford, on merit I think we're presenting ourselves for a Leinster semi-final, and it is not that long ago that we were sitting in Division 4, so we have to keep that in our mindset at the same time.
“Be mindful of what got us there and what has gotten us out of there, and if we can keep our focus clean and stay tight as a group we've got a chance,” he said.
With the players fully behind the Kerryman, Laois are forging ahead with their development. The support of the players has seen some accept roles they might not want to necessarily do, or be comfortable in, but the greater good has been the mantra, and Sugrue admits this is par for the course in competitive teams.
“That's how teams function, they function on fellas doing jobs and at different times we throw different jobs at different fellas and to date they have been willing to put their shoulder to the wheel and do jobs for us, and that just needs to continue. We will have to play a very intelligent, very structured game to try to get over a seriously organised Carlow side,” he said.