Neil Foyle ready to go for his eighth championship season with Laois senior hurlers

Rory Delaney

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Rory Delaney

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rory@leinsterexpress.ie

Neil Foyle ready to go for his eighth championship season with Laois senior hurlers

Neil Foyle strikes for a point against Offaly in the NHL. Pic: Denis Byrne.

This will be the eighth summer in a row Neil Foyle dons a jersey for the Laois senior hurlers and goes in search of glory.

Glory, for the Laois hurlers, has been an elusive concept, hard to nail down and harder to achieve.

They have competed in the Leinster and All-Ireland series without any real chance of winning either.
For them, glory came in being David, looking for that rare occasion they could slay Goliath and have a singular victory to hold as evidence of years of hard work.

In this new format, however, Laois now have the chance to win some silverware, a physical reward for the efforts of this year and others.

The Joe McDonagh Cup was a controversial concept, and even more controversial in terms of how it was executed, but the endgame remains the same - Laois have a chance to play a final, in Croke Park, for an actual trophy.

It is background which provides the context of Neil Foyle's emphatic answer when asked if he is looking forward to the first incarnation of this competition. “Absolutely. Bring it on.”

That's the sort of hunger you like to hear from a county hurler, and he expanded on why he is so keen for things to get under way. “Every hurler wants to hurl week in, week out games. And I think it kind of suits Laois from previous round robin championships. I felt we got stronger as the weeks went on and hopefully we'll be getting better as the championship goes on.

“I'm buzzing for it. Looking forward to it.”

As a veritable elder statesmen on one of the youngest intercounty panels in the country, in either code, Foyle has been impressed by many of his younger team mates. “It's great to see their enthusiasm and the energy they bring to it along with the regulars and the long-term injuries that are coming back.

“It's great to see it all gelling together. As the evenings are getting brighter you can really see the class and potential that is there, along with the depth.

“We had a game here last week and it was hammer and tongs against each other and it was great. We shook hands after and it was great."

His eight year tenure has covered some peaks and troughs in the history of Laois hurling, but despite all that, he admits he never considered walking away. “I didn't really to be honest. I've been there through some bad times and good times. No I never felt it (the desire to walk away).

“When you're hurling with your county - and I was always told coming up, that it goes so fast. From a personal point of view I want to leave a legacy behind and let youngsters coming through remember Neil Foyle when the boots are hung up and I'm the hurler on the ditch.”

While the goal for this year is undoubtedly the Joe McDonagh Cup, the thoughts of one big scalp in the heat of summer championship game remains strong for Foyle, and his Laois team mates. “We're still pushing for that scalp. That hasn't gone anywhere yet. We're still pushing for that. As the five games come in a row, the chance to play in Croke Park - I've never hurled there - so definitely it's an incentive to get there.

“But once you get there the bigger incentive is to get up them steps and then have a look at who you draw. That'd be a big day for Laois hurling.”