GAA Football

Carlow coach Stephen Poacher hits back at media pundits over criticism ahead of Tyrone Qualifier clash

Carlow assistant manager Stephen Poacher says he has no respect for his side's high-profile critics
Andy Watters

DOWN native Stephen Poacher says he has no respect for those who have bombarded him and his Carlow players with criticism this season.

Throughout their unprecedented run of success, Carlow have become the whipping boys of some sections of the broadcast media, including Joe Brolly, and Poacher, assistant to Turlough O’Brien at the Leinster minnows, says the level of criticism – some personal, some aimed at the team – has become “embarrassing”.

After clinching promotion from Division Four for the first time in 35 years, the pragmatic Barrowsiders beat Division Two outfit Louth and Division One side Kildare to move to within touching distance of a first Leinster final appearance since 1944.

Laois saw them off 0-12 to 0-8 in Sunday’s semi-final and Carlow are now preparing for a Qualifier against Tyrone at Dr Cullen Park on June 23 against the backdrop of a torrent of negative comments over their style of play.

RTE pundit Brolly tweeted: “Three points from play in 78 minutes v Laois? A nightmare not a dream.”

But Poacher countered: “The people who are making these criticisms are sensationalists.

“They have no experience of coaching teams and I don’t respect their opinions – I never have and I never will.

“I’d respect them more if they came to training, saw what we’re doing and then analysed us. Don’t just crave attention because, quite frankly, some of the stuff that has been said is embarrassing.

“This is a group of players who, three years ago when Turlough took them over, were bottom of Division Four with the worst defensive record in Ireland – they were conceding 22-23 points a game.

“They were beaten by 28 points by Meath, so what do you want Carlow to do? This has been the best two years Carlow have had in senior football in a long, long time – if not ever.

“We got our first promotion in 35 years, we were a couple of kicks of the ball away from the Leinster final and we’re now lining up to play Tyrone at home in the Qualifiers. These are brilliant days.”

After losing to Dublin in Leinster last year, Carlow reached round three of the Qualifiers and gave Monaghan a scare before a Fintan Kelly goal ended their season. However, they have come back even stronger this year although their counter-attacking system and media-friendly approach has been frowned upon by some pundits.

“Criticism just adds more fuel to the fire and creates more energy in the group. It creates a bigger siege mentality among us and it’s motivation for the group,” said Poacher.

“For me personally, it’s water off my back. I’ve heard it all before. You respect the opinions of men like Aidan O’Rourke who has put himself in the front line and who understands the game – he’s not sitting in a studio training to be a sensationalist, trying to get attention and get followers on Twitter.

“There was a number of things on Twitter after the match and I’m sure the players all read it.

“I just laugh at it. I use Twitter myself but if we need to pull a tweet off someone’s page or an article out of a newspaper to motivate your team, you’re doing something wrong. You shouldn’t need that.

Despite the criticism, Poacher says Carlow are determined to stick to their system as they prepare to host Mickey Harte and the Red Hands.

“You put yourself out there as a coach and as a team to be shot at,” said the former Down U21 coach.

“Some of the criticism I’ve heard has been very personal and directed towards me and that comes with the game.

“We won’t change our approach, we’re very media friendly, we don’t do drink bans and we let the players enjoy themselves. We create a training environment where every player can express themselves and 90 per cent of our games at training are offensive games.”

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