WHERE DID THIS rank?
Paddy Purcell was unequivocal.
The Laois captain may have climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand last Sunday and grasped silverware.
But yesterday the spotlight was on Portlaoise, a bumper home crowd watching and a big team landing in town. A knockout blow landed against Dublin and a passage sealed to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.
For the 27-year-old this was a shining moment from his days soldiering for the Laois hurling cause.
“This is the best I’ve ever played in. Croke Park and all is great but like it’s still a secondary competition. We want to be playing the top tier. We’ve never ever beat a top tier team. We beat Offaly a couple of years ago. This is the best for me and for all these boys.
“It’s brilliant. This is our dream but we’re not finished yet. We knew all week we had a chance. We kind of fancied this one.”
Having to undergo a swift turnaround from their Joe McDonagh Cup decider against Westmeath was put forward as a major hindrance for Laois but their players were not buying into that theory.
Laois captain Paddy Purcell lifts the Joe McDonagh Cup after their win over Westmeath.
Source: Gary Carr/INPHO
“We saw all the articles about Laois and that it’s not fair,” outlined Purcell.
‘We just got back at it. We didn’t want any excuses. There’s no crutches here. Days like this you dream of. We’re just so happy today.
“We trained well, brought back training Tuesday, went three nights this week to get focused. We didn’t really look at Dublin, we just said if we hurled to our potential and have no regrets when we woke up Monday morning, we’d be happy enough.
“There’s fierce belief in this group. We know we have the hurlers. It was just to put in a 70 minute performance with savage work rate. We felt if we got that we’d have a great chance to win the game.
“I think we were five points up at half-time, we went into the dressing-room, just relaxed, got air into the lungs and said scoreline back to zero, we go again. So that was basically it. There’s no real magic to it, self belief and real work rate. The panel we have, it’s a credit to Eddie, he’s after playing all the boys all year and now we have a strong panel to pick from, so it’s unbelievable. Work rate probably wasn’t there down through the years, we just brought that today. It paid off.”
And after a wait since 2005 to grace Croke Park, Laois are set for a second stint at GAA headquarters. They’ll square off against Tipperary next Sunday.
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“Going to Croker again, we hadn’t hurled in Croker for 14 years and we’re back twice in two weeks, it’s unbelievable,” said Purcell.
“I work in Tipperary so it could be a fun enough week! We’re under no illusions, they’re a massive team. We’ll probably enjoy tonight, recover tomorrow and go back training Tuesday night. We’ve nothing to lose sure, bring it on.”
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