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Saturday 18 August 2018

Poacher turned 'keeper of the Carlow flame sets out his stall

ON A ROLL: Carlow captain John Murphy with Shane Redmond, left, and Daniel St Ledger after beating Kildare. Pic: Sportsfile
ON A ROLL: Carlow captain John Murphy with Shane Redmond, left, and Daniel St Ledger after beating Kildare. Pic: Sportsfile

Steven Poacher may be noted for his defensive game-plans but he's a very positive man by disposition.

Spend 30 minutes of 90-mile-an-hour chat in his company and you'll quickly find out for yourself.

Maybe that explains why the Carlow coach abhors the negativity that seems to permeate so much of the national GAA discourse right now.

"Listen, if we can get over Laois, we'll go with a high line against Dublin, concede ten goals, and hopefully everyone will be happy then," says Poacher, desperately trying to dislodge tongue from his cheek ahead of tomorrow's Leinster SFC semi-final.

"It is what it is - it's the way the game should be," he continues, more seriously, about Carlow's counter-attacking set-up.

Poacher is a Down native who still lives in the county. Pic; Sportsfile
Poacher is a Down native who still lives in the county. Pic; Sportsfile

"If everybody played the same way, it would be a very boring spectacle. Does it really matter?

"Look at the job Sean Dyche has done at Burnley. Limited resources; I think they scored 35 goals in 38 games, and still managed to finish sixth."

Poacher is almost on the money: it was 36 goals and they finished seventh among the Premier League mega-rich, but his point remains valid.

To achieve what Burney have just done "takes a lot of work, a lot of coaching, a lot of belief in the squad and the same with any sport", explains Poacher.

Competitive

"You can make any team competitive in whatever way you feel you need to. The (Carlow) lads, to be fair, there's no one doesn't enjoy it.

"I think it's important we don't get lost in a couple of stray comments that are made by sensationalists.

"I don't think there's much wrong with the game, I really don't.

"I could show you 100 photographs on my phone. I went to watch every game Dublin played last year, after we played them, except for the Westmeath game.

"I watched the Tyrone game and I can tell you, on numerous, occasions Dublin had 14, 15 men behind the ball.

"And not a word about it, because they play with a quick break and they have multiple scoring options."

Poacher is a Down native who still lives in the county.

"We play a very aristocratic type of game - I came down here and couldn't believe the cynicism I was faced with," he quips when asked about Carlow's so-called devotion to blanket defence.

Warfare

He accepts that when he arrived last year, having taken a few sessions in 2016, he "brought a little bit of attritional Ulster warfare to the set-up".

Then he delivers another stat that flies in the face of Carlow's frugal stereotype.

"We've scored more goals than any county in Ireland - we scored 14 goals this year, there's no one that's matched that," he declares.

And he's right: Carlow have added four championship goals to their ten league strikes.

A couple more have managed 13; curiously Laois, their rivals for a Leinster final place, among them.

"We looked at the statistics during the league and it improved massively in the offensive end of things," he continues.

"Again that came in the second year (of his involvement with Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien) after last year trying to get the foundation right, and this year was about building.

"And there's more to come. We're going out to win on Sunday, and the next challenge after that, and the longer the summer lasts - not just for this group of players, but the county, the children.

"That's the important thing," Poacher concludes, "that they leave a legacy, a culture in place for the next Carlow footballer."

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