Laois captain Purcell buzzing ahead of Croke Park bow
By John Harrington
Paddy Purcell is looking out across the Croke Park pitch with the hungry look of a man who cant wait to hurl on it.
Hes visited GAA headquarters on two different occasions this year for media events publicising the Joe McDonagh Cup, but hes yet to puck a ball across the sacred sod.
That moment will finally come on Sunday when he leads his team out to face Meath in the McDonagh Cup Final.
I've never hurled here, only a few of us hurled here, Purcell told GAA.ie. A few boys played in the minor final in '13 but it'll be a completely new experience for the rest of us.
It's one we'll relish and there's a great buzz in the camp. We're really looking forward to it, it'll be a huge experience for us. There's a serious buzz around the county too, everyone you talk to is nearly going to the match.
For Laois hurling that's massive. We had an open night there with the kids the other night and the amount of kids that turned up for it was amazing. We wouldn't usually get that, it would usually be the footballers that would attract the crowds.
It's only going to improve Laois hurling down the line.
If we could win it, it would drive on everyone. You'd entice lads to commit to it again for next year and you'd have a few new lads coming in as well.
Even the young lads in the development squads, they'd look up to senior panel all the more if we could manage it and that would drive the thing on even more.
Laois are coming into the match in a rich vein of form. They secured their qualification for the Final with a game to spare and then had the luxury of resting some of their key players, including Purcell, for the final match of the group phase against Westmeath which ended in a draw.
Eddie Brennan has made a positive impression as Laois hurling manager.
The teams form graph has been on a steady upward curve under manager Eddie Brennan, who Purcell believes has made a positive impact with the group because he consistently rewards form rather than reputation with his team selections.
With Eddie it's very basic, simple stuff, said Purcell. He tests us on our internal matches and if a lad is playing well then he goes out and plays on the Sunday.
Eddie knows all the boys now and knows how to make them tick. He doesn't mind if lads haven't been in the panel down through the years, he'll pick whoever is going well.
Whoever plays well in training will get a chance and that's created a good buzz in the panel because no-one is safe.
It's just pure honesty from Eddie and all the players react positively to that. If you're left off you know why, and lads would be bouncing back in to training the following Tuesday trying to force their way back into the team.
Lads would even be bouncing in training trying to get into the 26 for Sunday. There'll be six or seven lads that will be disappointed, but such is life.
As well as Laois have played thus far in the competition, Purcell is adamant they still have considerable room for improvement going into Sundays Final against Westmeath.
We probably haven't put together 70 minutes across the whole campaign, he said. We've left teams in it in matches. We left Offaly in it for long periods of the game and probably nearly got caught near the end.
Antrim came back to us in the second-half as well, so that's something we're looking at, trying to produce a consistent performance over the course of the full 70 minutes.
We feel it's there, but trying to get it out of us has been the hard thing. No better place to do it now than on Sunday.
We're really just focusing on ourselves. If we perform to the best of our capabilities we feel we're in with a great shout and I'm sure Westmeath feel the same.