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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Brennan: Dunphy red card was very harsh decision

Ahead of the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-20 Provincial Championship Finals, Bord Gáis Energy have announced two exclusive tours of Croke Park for Rewards Club customers with Kilkenny’s Eddie Brennan (pictured) and Cork’s Brian Corcoran
Ahead of the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-20 Provincial Championship Finals, Bord Gáis Energy have announced two exclusive tours of Croke Park for Rewards Club customers with Kilkenny’s Eddie Brennan (pictured) and Cork’s Brian Corcoran

There's a story Eddie Brennan tells to illustrate a point. Before he gets into it he adds a quick caveat - "I'm not seeking praise here" - and then he offers it up as a juxtaposition of then and now - his time as a player versus now, as a manager.

"In 2007 we played Wexford," he says. "I was marking Gizzy [Diarmuid] Lyng and he got booked early. In the second half he whipped across me with the hurl and I said to the ref: 'don't send him off.'

"That's not saying we're great but as a player you'd love that challenge of going toe to toe with the opposition, the cut and thrust. There's a healthy intensity and that's what makes hurling what it is. We want that and what we don't want to see is lads getting walked off the pitch."

He has no qualms about the result on Sunday, the Laois manager conceding that Tipp were the better team, but what rankles is the incident four minutes into the second half - Aaron Dunphy shown red after swinging his hurley into the thigh of Paudie Maher, the Tipp man quickly collapsing to the ground.

He has watched the incident back several times and believes it was harsh on Dunphy, to say the least.

"I've been on the receiving end of a fair few of them and I've given a few as well. For me they're part and parcel of hurling. It's a strike, we all accept that but I think if consistency is applied the next three games then we're going to see a nice few fellas sitting on the line.

"There was a level of guesswork involved and I really, really don't think they saw that incident. We want intensity and we want good hard hitting hurling - that's what makes it what it is."

It's not so much the decisions themselves he has a problem with, just the lingering sense that the remaining games will not be officiated the same way.

"If the rules are going to be applied consistently then we're going to see a lot of players walk because there are belts of hurls."

After his first full year of inter-county management, Brennan is well placed to gauge the health of the modern game - "really good, getting better and better" - and the eight-time All-Ireland winner with Kilkenny helped script the story of the summer so far as Laois shocked Dublin to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final.

When he arrived his first mission was to pluck the low-hanging fruit of performance gains.

"The very simple stuff," he says. "Today we're all consumed with game plans but if you're able not execute the basic skills you're at nothing. When we looked at the Galway match, five times in the first half Laois players walked out over a ball and didn't rise it the first time. That's where our starting point was.

"Also being accountable. The lads have to understand that if we're all in this together, we can't have lads not pulling their weight.

Now that the curtain is drawn on their summer, he can begin to think ahead to the 2020 Leinster Championship and the curious idea of a trip to Nowlan Park to take on Brian Cody.

"Oh Jesus, don't mention the war," he laughs. "That's going to be weird. It'll be a tough one all around but it is what it is and you just get on with it."

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