Lacey gets set for the long road

HIS new position will see him clocking over 1,000 kilometres a week from his Kildare base but Brian Lacey had no hesitation about accepting the offer to coach the Limerick footballers.

The former All Star defender was approached by Maurice Horan in October to fill the void left by Ephie Fitzgerald, who has since taken over the Cork minors.

The return commute from his Kildare home to Limerick’s Rathkeale base is approximately 350km, a trip he makes three times a week.

But after setting up his own company Pension Structures 12 months ago, Lacey has the flexibility to fulfil his aspiration following coaching experiences with Westmeath’s U21s and Kildare clubs Rathangan and Nurney.

“I wanted to get into a county setup. In 2010 I stopped playing club football (with Round Towers) and last January I started up my company and was able to manage my time. It’s something I always wanted to do. I wasn’t too keen on the management side of it but had a huge interest in honing players’ skills and their tackling. Limerick is the ideal fit for me.

“I’ve also two brothers living in Limerick and the commute isn’t too bad. It’s more or less motorway all the way.”

Naturally, Lacey is feeling his way into the role and getting to know the players although he has faced a couple of the older ones at inter-county level. But already he has sensed the optimism in the camp about the year ahead. Division 4 is on the horizon but the date on everyone’s minds is the May 20 quarter-final against Waterford.

With Cork and Kerry drawn on the other side of the draw with Tipperary, there’s grounds for it too.

“You’d be lying if you said there wasn’t,” acknowledged Lacey. “From a players’ point of view, that’s the way they’re seeing it. That’s not to say it won’t require extra effort.

“I played with John Owens in ‘97 and I trained under him when I went back to Tipp after Kildare and I know him as a good trainer. He’ll have Waterford ready for our game.”

Even with the likes of John Galvin and Stephen Kelly yet to return, the number of players in consideration for the league panel highlights the enthusiasm around Limerick football this year.

“The thing about Limerick this year is we still have 38 guys on the panel knocking on the door. The Division 4 campaign is what’s most important but it would be nice to get another couple of games in the McGrath Cup ahead of it even though it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

The visit of UCC to Rathkeale on Sunday will give Horan his first opportunity to go about finding replacements for Shane Gallagher and Tommy Stack in the full-back line.

Although he will also act as a selector, for now Lacey is more focused on sharpening Limerick’s skill-set.

As he explained: “Since I played, the whole physical side has changed as regards strength and conditioning. It’s a lot more professional that way but the skills haven’t changed. The rules haven’t changed. It’s not fitness that has lost and won games; skill has. Look at Dublin in the All-Ireland final taking that goal and the ball being given away by Kerry before the goal. (Stephen) Cluxton hitting the point. All that was skill.

“I’ve a big interest in the tackle and how to execute it. I would have worked strongly on that as a player myself.

“We’ve a great set-up. Maurice is a very good organiser and has a great mind for football. Joe Lee from Newcastle West is an insightful man and we have Andy O’Neill for strength and conditioning and he’s working with Munster (rugby).”

Following in the footsteps of his former club and county mate Glen Ryan into top level management, Lacey has been joined by their old colleague Anthony Rainbow who’s now a selector with Luke Dempsey in Carlow.

All three are disciples of Mick O’Dwyer with Lacey hoping some of the Kerry legend’s magic has rubbed off on him.

“Glen’s doing well in Longford and Rainbow has been involved with so many good managers from Micko to Kieran McGeeney that he’s sure to have an awful lot to bring to the table. We would have all played under Micko and if we can learn 50 to 60% of what he gave us we wouldn’t be too bad.”

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