Evan O’Carroll of Laois poses for a portrait during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.
Evan O’Carroll of Laois poses for a portrait during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. 

Evan O'Carroll: Gaelic Football 'crying out' for Tailteann Cup


By John Harrington

In the relatively recent past, the Laois footballers were knocking around the business end of the All-Ireland Championship, coming within one match in both 2018 and 2019 of making the All-Ireland Quarter-Final series.

But despite those relatively successful championship campaigns, Laois vice-captain, Evan O’Carroll, is more than happy to be now competing in the Tailteann Cup rather than the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.

“It is something that we have been crying out for,” says O’Carroll of the new competition.

“You are going to go into each match with a realistic chance of winning.

“And at the end of the day, if you have silverware to play for, that’s the most important thing.

“We are playing teams that we would be confident of beating and they would be confident of beating us. Whereas if you go into the qualifier system, you could get unlucky and get one of the Division one teams and there is a gap, no doubt about it. I am not saying you couldn’t beat them, but the odds would be stacked against you.

“Every team that is in the Tailteann Cup are looking at it and feeling that they could get a good run in it.

“For it to work, we have to buy into it and we have something to buy into now. We know that for half of the league, we were good enough. For the other half, we weren’t.

“Championship, we definitely weren’t good enough. We still have a good group of players and it is up to us to turn it around now.”

The nature of their exit from the Leinster SFC at the hands of Wicklow was a sobering one.

Having beaten the Garden County by 12 points in the League, they ended up losing by six in the championship having trailed by 16 points at one stage.

Evan O’Carroll of Laois in action against Patrick O’Keane of Wicklow during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Round 1 match between Wicklow and Laois at the County Grounds in Aughrim, Wicklow. 
Evan O’Carroll of Laois in action against Patrick O’Keane of Wicklow during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Round 1 match between Wicklow and Laois at the County Grounds in Aughrim, Wicklow. 

Coming hot on the heels of relegation from Division Three of the Allianz League, it was a difficult loss to stomach.

“It was disappointing,” admits O’Carroll. “Any championship defeat is disappointing but the way we performed, that is not us. It was just one of those days.

“We were able to score but there was no point in scoring if you can’t defend as well. Conceding 5-15, you are never going to win any championship game. It was just really, really disappointing.

“We got back with the clubs for a couple of weeks, got a couple of games with them, been training really hard. It is just about getting a bit of confidence back into us. I still believe we are a good team, still think we are capable of causing a lot of teams a lot of problems.”

Despite relegation from the League and that Championship loss to Wicklow, O’Carroll insists that the camp is still a happy one under manager Billy Sheehan.

“He has been good,” he said. “I played with Billy for a couple of years, knew him as a player. And he is the same as a manager. He is 100 percent focused on the development of us, he has brought professionalism to it. If you look at results, we were going well at the start of the year.

“Midway through the league had a couple of disappointing results. Winning with a minute to go against Antrim and they got a point to level it. We were leading against Limerick and just didn’t close out the game and that is something you need to learn.

“You make your own luck in football and that put a small bit of pressure on us. Unfortunately, we didn’t do the business against Longford on the last day.

“Division three was really, really competitive. Everyone was beating everyone else and if you didn’t turn up on the day, you got beat. But look we have something now to focus on winning.”