Carroll focused ahead of Kilkenny clash

Carroll focused ahead of Kilkenny clash

Offaly free-taker Brian Carroll gave a match-winning performance against Laois in the Leinster SHC quarter-final, and the Coolderry man is hoping he can maintain his focus against Kilkenny at the penultimate stage this weekend.

Carroll believes that with Joe Dooley on board this season as manager, his arrival has brought a new focus to Offaly hurling.

"Joe Dooley is an excellent manager and all the players look up to him and believe in everything that he says," Carroll said.

"Joe has been there and done that over the years. We can buy into what he is saying and hopefully we can produce the performance that we are capable of producing."

It would be easy for Carroll to point to quick success for his side this year, following that convincing win over Laois, but the corner forward is a realist and believes that any criticism dished out towards Offaly hurling in recent years has been fully warranted.

"Genuinely we have some good players but realistically Offaly haven't performed over the last few years," he said.

"The majority of the criticism has been warranted. We have to step up to the plate now over the next couple of years.

"There are a couple of older players there at the moment like Brian Mullins, Ger Oakley and Brendan Murphy. They don't want to go out of their careers having won very little."

Added to a consistency at club level, and a smooth transfer of club players to inter-county action, Carroll believes that hurling in the Faithful county has a very bright future.

"If you look at the county team at the moment, there is a nucleus of players from every club and that's important," he explained.

"Offaly down through the years have always had players from every single club. That's important, we can't have one or two clubs dominating the county scene. In fairness to Joe he has gone back to that.

"In fairness to Birr, at the same time, they have not just been the standard bearers in Offaly but in Leinster and Ireland. Every other club in Offaly has been looking up to Birr and cheering them on, once they got outside of it.

"But certainly we need players from every side of the county."

Kilkenny stand between Offaly and a place against either Dublin or Wexford in the Leinster final. Carroll is aware that nothing will come easy in Sunday's match.

"We have been training very hard and we know that we have an awful lot of work to do to come up to the standard of Kilkenny. We are just hoping that on the day things will go our way," Carroll admitted.

"Kilkenny are favourites and rightly so but we have to believe in our own ability.

"We can't be going into games hoping that we can do well. We have to believe that we can do well and I would like to think that that will be the way it will be."

A year ago Offaly held Kilkenny for three-quarters of the game, at the same stage of the championship, before the Cats pulled away at the finish.

Carroll believes it is hard to replace the top-level experience, which Brian Cody's side possess in abundance.

"Kilkenny have experience of being in the big games and it stood to them on a couple of occasions last year, not just against us but against Galway last year as well if you recall.

"Obviously Kilkenny know what they have to do but we can't really focus too much on them. We have to focus on our own game."

And what does Carroll believe is needed for Offaly to topple Kilkenny this weekend in Portlaoise?

"The phrase that comes to mind is 'sheer guts and determination'  it's something that just came to mind there.

"We need fast hurling as well and we can't be standing hip to hip, toe-to-toe with Kilkenny because they are big, strong, physical men.

"We can't let them dictate the pace of the game but one sure thing is that we need luck as well."

Having already accounted for Laois in their quarter-final clash at O'Moore Park, Carroll is delighted that this weekend's semi-final is being played at the Portlaoise venue.

"Portlaoise is a gorgeous surface in fairness. The last day it was in beautiful condition.

"It's good for ground hurling and we have to continue with the old-fashioned style of hurling that Offaly have always produced over the years.

"Quick hurling and hopefully turn Kilkenny around, keep bearing down on goal and hope for the best."

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