Just over a year and a half into his reign as Laois senior football manager and Justin McNulty has experienced his fair share of highs and lows. It all started in impressive fashion, with promotion to Division 1 secured at the first attempt. A disappointing championship campaign followed, and after relegation from the top flight this year, it must have left manager, players and supporters alike wondering when some stability would be achieved. While the league campaign just gone by has been blighted by some poor results the former Armagh footballer is realistic about what needs to be done to rectify the situation. His team need to start putting in some performances on the field. “I think they (supporters) haven’t seen a glimmer of light to give them the hope that they need, but hopefully if we can beat Longford that will be the glimmer of light that we can provide.
These guys have given serious commitment and serious effort.” Part of the reason behind some supporters opting to stay away from the Laois games this season was the style of football the team was playing, but McNulty dismissed the idea that his was a defensive team. “I don’t think we have been playing a very defensive style, if we had been playing a very defensive style we wouldn’t have conceded the high scores that we did in some of the games in the league.” While this time last year his side was in a healthy state following league promotion, he acknowledges that Sunday’s opponents now hold the upper hand in that department as their second meeting in two years looms on the horizon. “Longford are on the crest of a wave. They are brimming with confidence and have quality players all over the pitch.”
“They have a strong, confident goalkeeper and a solid full-back line with dogged corner-backs. Michael Quinn, back from Australia, is a huge boost to them in the centre of the defence while Paul Barden, David Barden, Brian Kavanagh and Sean McCormack are all excellent forwards.
So we are under no illusions that it’s going to be a massive task. Pearse Park has proven to be a graveyard for several high-profile teams down through the years, but our focus has to be on our own performance.” As he looks ahead to the game, is he happy with how things have gone so far? “I think you are never entirely happy with your preparations” says McNulty. “I would say the preparations have been very positive, the players have been resilient coming back from a disappointing league campaign, where confidence was possibly at a low ebb, and to have bounced back from that is promising. “We are focusing very much on the big test ahead which is Longford on Sunday next. We have had a few tough challenge games along the way. While the results haven’t necessarily been good, the performances in elements of those games have been very encouraging and hopefully it puts us in good stead for the championship.”