Joe McDonagh Cup

Whelan's experience will prove pivotal for Laois in the Joe McDonagh Cup final

*Brought to you by Telfords

Greg Mulhall

Reporter:

Greg Mulhall

Email:

greg.mulhall@leinsterexpress.ie

Whelan's experience will prove pivotal for Laois in the Joe McDonagh Cup final

*Brought to you by Telfords

 

Matthew Whelan has soldiered through a number of barren years for Laois hurling, twelve to be precise, but he believes that it's all worth it ahead of their biggest day out in quite some time.

The Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton man has been a mainstay in Laois teams since emerging onto the scene, serving under every manager that has come and gone. Now one the elder statesmen on the team, Whelan knows how big Sunday's Joe McDonagh Cup final is to the Laois hurling fraternity.

"I suppose you build your life around it at times, you maybe sacrifice your own personal goals at home, but it's all worth it in the end. 

"I got a lot of confidence in playing sport and that's transferred into my working career. I suppose there's always aspects that are going to be highlighted in the media because I suppose it's easier to highlight negatives but there is still a lot of positive aspects to playing inter-county."

Whelan gave his thoughts on the new management set-up that's been in place this year, Kilkenny legend Eddie Brennan taking over the helm from Eamon Kelly.

"They adapt their coaching techniques to some of our weaknesses, some of our strengths and build their game plan to what we do well.

"I think I heard Tommy (Fitzgerald) saying earlier that we started off against Galway in the national hurling league in Salthill and we've come along way since then.

"We're still buying into what we're trying to achieve, which is to win the Joe McDonagh and get back into the Leinster championship."

It will not be a simple task for Laois considering Westmeath will be hungry to atone for last year's defeat in the final, and Whelan knows their recent meeting does not tell the whole story:

"The match the previous weekend gone by, that was only shadow-boxing.

"Being a teacher in Westmeath for a short period of time, I would have known a few of the young lads that were in Mullingar in school and they've come through the ranks and they're top class players.

"They're a county like ourselves, they're hungry to get up and into the Leinster championship to take a few swipes at the bigger teams."

Whelan will try to remain as focused as possible on the big day, having picked up a Leinster Minor title at the same venue with the Laois footballers in 2005. Sunday's Joe McDonagh Cup final at Croke Park will be hurlers first appearance in the ground since the 2005 Leinster SHC semi-final defeat to Wexford.

"I think the crowd and the neighbours and the friends at home, they're probably enjoying the build up more so, the opportunity to get on a train and go to Croke Park and support Laois.

"We've been guilty of following other counties come July, August and September at times so it's nice to be able to follow our own. Even last year with the footballers getting to the Leinster final, it gave the county a great lift and a great buzz."