Kieran Lillis sat down with us to talk all things life, business and football. Picture: Alf Harvey
August is shaping up to be a big month for Laois and Portlaoise stalwart Kieran Lillis.
The last few months have been a big change for him in both business and football but he hasn't been sitting on his hands and is now looking forward to getting back on track in a few weeks time.
With the first round of the Senior football championship down for the second weekend in August and his bar and venue 'Lilly's' set to open on the August bank Holiday weekend, his life is about to get a whole lot busier again.
Rather than stress about it, Lillis is looking forward to the challenge.
“I opened here two years ago the week leading up to the Leinster final against Dublin and it was a welcome distraction.
“We opened the nightclub part of the business June last year and that was the week leading up to the Offaly game down here in O’Moore Park.
“I don’t mind getting stuck into the work, I have good people on board here that can take the reins. I’m not here late at night before games so my lifestyle is good for football and for the business. Hopefully it stays that way as you only have a small window for football and a small window for business too.”
Having been forced to close his business on March 15, it was a worrying time but the towering midfielder used the time to take stock of everything and take a step back
“With covid, we have to re-address our situation and we will probably phase it back a bit, close for a few days at the start and focus on the other end of the week.
“I’m in a group of bars – Bernard Brogan and Allan Clancy would be my two partners here and they are involved in a few other places as well.
“They have opened back up a premises in Navan and they are going to pilot that and find out what they need and don’t need.
“The place in Navan is similar to here and it is a similar enough town so we will see what we need, what the people want, are they going to be safe and so on.
“I know there is a new normal but we want to be as normal as we can be like previously. We have a lot of space in here so hopefully there won’t be too many restrictions.”
The plan is for the bar to be back up and running by the Bank Holiday weekend and Lillis that the Country can continue to open back up without another spike in cases.
“My plan is to have a staff meeting next week, have a meeting with Bernard and Allan also and have a plan to open before the August Bank Holiday weekend.
“It is hard at the moment because there are so little procedures coming from the government. It is hard, even with the staff when you have nothing new to report.
“People have been asking over the last few months, ‘what’s the story’ but I didn’t know what the story was myself.
“Hopefully, without a spike and all the traders that are open at the moment follow the guidelines, we can get back to the new normal.”
Since the Country has began to open back up, Lillis, who is also a keen golfer, has been a bit of movement back in the town and is hopeful that the main street being made pedestrian will also help business when they open back up.
“It gave me a chance to kind of step back and look at the business as a whole. To see what was working and what wasn’t. Even down to decor, painting up the front and re-jigging the toilets.
“A few places are busy. Jeremiah Grant’s and the Midlands Park seem to be very busy which is great for us. It is a good sign. PJ with the coffee hatch seems to be doing well also along with McCormack’s deli.
“With the main street being made pedestrian, hopefully we can bring a crowd down this end and lift other business as well.”
Portlaoise are now back training and looking to their first round football clash with Ballylinan and Lillis admits that training on your own was a bit of challenge to get right
“When we closed the doors here on March 15, personally I thought we would be back in three weeks, but I began to realise it was long term.
“Myself and a few of the other players got in contact with the strength and conditioning coach and we got a few pieces of equipment out of the centre of excellence so we were able to tip away at home.
“With regards the club, Kevin Fitzpatrick (Portlaoise manager) had us doing challenges like time trials on our own. We built up a little leaderboard and it was a bit of craic.
“At the start, i used it as a platform to get better but I was nearly doing too much training for the first two or three weeks.
“I took a week off then and I found it hard to get back at it. It was one of these things where you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and the motivation was dipping.
“I’m doing a leadership course with the GPA and I got stuck into the study too.
“ I was doing zoom calls with players from other counties and every other county was the same".
A competitive championship in Laois is sure to lead to increased competition for places in the County squad according to Lillis.
“Our panel is open and if people put up their hand in the club championships, they will get a chance.
“Mike (Quirke) wants us to do really well with the clubs.
He has had the right level of communication with us as well. He hasn’t bombarded us but he has touched base with us.
“Tom Hargroves has been very accessible as well”.
It may be some time before what he considered a normal life to return, but for now he is happy and ready to embrace whatever the 'new normal' throws up.