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Sunday 17 December 2017

Capital Gains for Laois

Managers insist O'Moore men reap benefits from links with Dublin clubs

IF there is resentment towards Dublin from Saturday's Allianz League Division 1 opponents Laois, chances are most of it emanates from the boardrooms of O'Moore County clubs and is aimed directly at a selection of capital counterparts.

It has been one of the largest bones of Laois contention over the last couple of years that the exodus of promising local talent has headed the same direction, leaving clubs shorn of the players they had nurtured until the invitation came from some corner of Dublin to join up.

Loud and wailing have been the cries from Laois as, one after another, players left for the bright lights of the capital.

County Secretary Niall Handy last year admitted that the Laois executive, in tandem with one of the jilted few, Mountmellick, had considered putting a motion to next year's Congress "to stop players going to Dublin clubs unless they could prove they were living in the capital for 48 weeks".

He later criticised the Dublin county board for not addressing the issue in 'The Blue Wave' report published in November 2011.

The immediate question of why the players have moved can be explained mostly through economic realities.

The likes of John O'Loughlin (St Brigid's) and Colm Begley (Parnell's) are both working as games promotion officers in their respective clubs so the links are obviously mutually beneficial.

What about the effects on the Laois team, though?

"John will admit himself that he has improved since joining us," says Mark Byrne, joint-manager of St Brigid's, who reaped the rewards of O'Loughlin's abilities last year in their run to the Leinster club SFC final.

Maturity

"The team has improved with him joining too so it's a two-way street. He knew himself that there were a few things he had to work on but he was willing to do that.

"When the opposition have the ball, he wouldn't have worked the hardest. He wanted to be on the ball all the time but that has improved.

"He's closing down fellas now. He's a great athlete but he's more composed than he was. That comes with maturity too."

Parnell's are a primary source of local Laois angst, containing two current O'Moore County players (Begley and MJ Tierney) and one former, Darren Rooney, having said goodbye to Colm Parkinson last year.

They too have assisted in finding employment for players who in other circumstances -- as acknowledged by some inside Laois -- might have been forced to emigrate and would have been lost to the county side as well.

"Colm is a leader and a motivator for us," praises Parnell's manager, Brian Talty. "Like most top county players, they want to do things right and that would be the same with him."

Tierney, meanwhile, is another player who Talty believes has shown massive improvement of late after his "disillusioned" summer of 2011 and whether playing in Dublin has contributed to that or not, his quest to nail down a place in Justin McNulty's team has benefited the cub.

"MJ was flying last year early on and then his performances went down and he lost a bit of confidence as well," Talty notes.

"He's a confidence player, like most forwards. On Sunday (against St Brigid's in their Dublin AFL1 opener) he was fabulous for us.

Fantastic

"He worked his arse off for us. His workrate was fantastic. Some forwards don't like to tackle but obviously, they have been working on that aspect of his game.

"He's not a giant but he was chasing the likes of John O'Loughlin and putting in tackles so that shows the improvement in his game."

McNulty himself is on the record as saying the implications for his team are minimal. "I don't see it being a big issue," he was quoted as saying last year.

"I played in Dublin myself. I don't think it's the case that there are more Laois players (in Dublin) than any other county. When I was there, there were maybe four or five Armagh guys playing in Dublin and also Meath. I don't see it being as big an issue as people are making out."

Both Rory Stapleton (St Vincent's) and Seán George (Ballymun Kickhams) were regarded as good senior inter-county prospects - George has now declared for Dublin, the county of his birth - while it remains to be seen how playing in Dublin will effect Stapleton's breakthrough.

How many more will follow, though, remains to be seen.

"We would be very picky about who would come in," Byrne explains of O'Loughlin's arrival. "We believe in a very strong ethos so whoever came into our panel, we would have to have seen that they were a good fit for us and had the right attributes. And in fairness to John, he has them in abundance.

"It's not just that he is down playing and then going home. He is there all the time. He's involved in the club. He wants to be part of it."

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