John Sugrue plots a future for Laois with a heavy dollop of realism in his management recipie for midland county in revival mode.
As debut seasons go, you probably couldn't ask for more if you were John Sugrue.
The man from Renard in south-west Kerry has called the O'Moore county his home for about fifteen years now, and having developed a reputation as a clever and successful coach in his native county, he is now coming to national attention through his work with Laois.
With the players have long called for his appointment, the time was finally right for him to step into the hotseat last winter, and now the rest of us see what many of the Laois panel already knew.
The transparency and honesty he speaks with in his role as Laois manager have been well-received, and needed, by the Laois senior panel, and the response is clear for all to see. Ten wins in a row is a remarkable achievement, but that record faces the ultimate test in Croke Park on Sunday.
So far this year, in terms of league positions at least, Westmeath are the highest ranked team they have played. After a third meeting with fellow Division 4 side Carlow in the semi-final, the bar now gets raised as high as it could possibly go with a date against Dublin.
“Dublin are going to be a different proposition, there's no hiding from that. But we're building and we're measuring ourselves against opposition and we’re going to go after this one.
“We're going to go after this one and try and set ourselves up to be competitive in the game, and to be competitive in the game you have to have an intention of winning it and not just try to stay in it.”
When it comes to the minutiae of how he and his management team actually will set out their stall against Dublin, Sugrue is certainly not about to fall into the trap of showing his cards prior to throw in this Sunday, but he does believe an ultra-defensive approach, as adopted by Carlow against his charges the last time out, isn’t necessarily the right plan of action.
“Carlow shipped 19 points, I think (against Dublin in 2017). Now we'll see after the next day how it will turn out but if you play 15 behind the ball and ship 19 points you're probably not going to win a game. So that doesn't look like the formula.”
Speaking at the Laois Senior Football teams press night ahead of the Leinster Final the Laois boss was in bullish mood about the challenge that lies ahead for his charges as they prepare to take on, what many have described, as the greatest football team to have ever played the game.
The Kerry native it seems subscribes to the approach, that the best form of defence is attack.
“To be competitive in a game you have to have the intention of winning it and not just trying to stay in it.”
You could forgive the Kerryman for not wanting to heap too much praise on his native counties biggest rivals, but Sugrue is pragmatic enough to know that what Dublin have achieved over the last number of years is worthy of recognition. This recognition however, doesn’t mean that he is in anyway over-awed by his sides Leinster Final opponents.
“They play a good, hard brand of football. That's the football fellas want to play. Our fellas are going to try and play a reasonably good brand of football and a reasonably hard brand of football as well. And hopefully it will be a good game to watch.”
A glint in the Kerrymans eye suggests that far from fearing this Dublin side, both himself and his team are looking forward to the prospect of facing a side that are looking to make it eight Leinster titles in a row.
“The challenge is we’re facing a good team, and that’s a good challenge to have.”
Whatever that formula that will be adopted by the Kerry man against Dublin, he is certainly not in the mood for divulging it when he speaks to the assembled press at the Laois teams press night ahead of the provincial decide, but what we do know is that with him calling the shots, Laois have a manger that his players have trust and belief in, and that in the white hot heat of championship football can go a long way.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.