Laois manager Eamonn Kelly. Pic: Alf Harvey.
Laois manager Eamonn Kelly was delighted to see his side learn from their mistakes in the win over Westmeath, as they turned in an improved performance to beat Meath on Sunday in Navan.
Having made life difficult for themselves the week before, Laois showed a more ruthless streak on Sunday, running out 15 point winners over the Royal County to now sit atop the Qualifying Group for the Leinster SHC proper.
As he reflected on the game afterwards, the Laois boss was just happy to be leaving Navan with a win under his belt. “We put up a good score. We were very apprehensive coming up here, Meath, I don't know why the whole country hasn't been talking about them, they've had an unbelievable run in league and championship this year and last year.
“We knew if we weren't at our best we were going to get turned over, because they turned over Kerry easy enough last week, so we're delighted to get the win and have four points on the board.”
His apprehension before the game proved to be justified in the opening stages, as Laois were put firmly under the cosh by a pumped up home team. Meath started well, but Laois, to their credit, weathered the storm well. “Yeah, we were two points down but thankfully the lads reacted well.
“We spoke about that, whatever way it went we had to focus on our performance for the entire game. We had a few excellent individual performances, but as a team they worked very hard.”
What ultimately broke that early Meath display of spirit was a hat trick of well-time goals, all coming from the hurl of Paddy Purcell. While Kelly admitted afterwards he doesn't like to single out players for praise, he had to make an exception for the Rathdowney-Errill man. “We don't try to focus on individuals, but there was one man who probably should be focussed on today and that's Paddy Purcell.
“That was as good a midfield display as I've seen in a long, long time, or ever. He scored three goals, I don't know how many points, all from play. It was phenomenal.”
Sunday also saw the return to action of Neil Foyle, and the Borris-Kilcotton man had a massive impact on the game, providing the fulcrum around with the Laois attack worked, as well as having a hand in all three goals.
“Another guy with a fantastic attitude” nodded Kelly after the game. “He went into the game with a bit of knock so we knew we weren't going to get the full game out of him, but a lot comes off his breaks. He's not one bit selfish, he's always prepared to give the right pass.”
While there were a litany of positives, the one major negative was the injury to Cahir Healy, and unfortunately for Laois, the Tipp man didn't have positive news. “He just said it was probably the worst tear he has gotten, so he's probably going to be out for a few weeks, he probably won't make the Kerry game in two weeks time, so we'll just have to assess that one.”
With two wins from two, Laois look nailed on for a place in the Leinster SHC now, but with a tricky game against Kerry to come, Kelly is taking nothing for granted. “We have to win too, that's the way we are looking at it, we're not through yet so we have to go down there and get something to be sure, we don't want to be waiting on other results.”