John Sugrue: 'You can’t say we made progress by just getting out of Division 4'

Laois manager John Sugrue

It was notable that John Sugrue was the man the Laois players wanted to succeed Peter Creedon as manager.

A native of Kerry who has been based in Portlaoise for eight years, Sugrue was known to a lot of them from a spell under Justin McNulty that saw his role as physio expand to include coaching.

He left an impression then and has created an even stronger one now.

What is really refreshing about Sugrue though is his pragmatism.

Laois might be on a 10-game winning run, with three Championship victories coming in the wake of seven in a league that ended with promotion as Division 4 champions.

But true to his heritage, Sugrue is adamant that nothing done in the spring counts when it comes to evaluating progress.

We had to get out of May in the championship to make progress, as far as I was concerned,” says Sugrue.

“We were in Division 4 and you can’t say we made progress by just getting out of Division 4.

“They got relegated the year before and the team that got relegated were always going to be competitive.

“We are into June and are in the final and we have earned that right. People say ‘What about the various other teams ahead of us in the league?’ but in Leinster they are not there and we have earned the right to be there and if we keep the heads down and bring to the table what we can bring to the table, then let’s see where it gets us.”

No wild promises or claims that his side is capable of doing anything they have yet to show — particularly against the might of Dublin, who have not been challenged in Leinster for years and have only been challenged consistently in the championship by Mayo and Kerry.

They have a serious record, no two ways about it. The facts are there. . We have a huge big challenge ahead but we have to focus on that and prepare for it.

So he doesn’t find it patronising that the prevailing view from outside the camp is that the best Laois can hope for is to put in a performance.

“Performance leads to results and if you focus on results and not performance, you are not going to get them so we have to focus on ourselves which we have been doing pretty much all year; what we need to do and what style of play and little adaptation we need to make to be competitive in games. We’ll look to control us and ourselves and then turn up and try and perform.”

He comes across as completely relaxed in the build-up to the biggest game of his nascent inter-county management career. But there will be no discussion on belief.

“If we put in front of them a programme of playing that game and see can they navigate their way through it, that’s what we have to do. There is no point playing the occasion.

"It’s another game, 70 minutes in Croke Park. We’ve been there twice already this year, we know the routine. The white lines aren’t going to be moved out or in or anything like that so we have to concentrate on the game.”

For what it’s worth, he does believe there is much more to come from his charges.

“What I want to see in a properly competitive game when it is nip and tuck and it’s really tight margins… can we stay performing?”

The answer to that question is about to be delivered.

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