By Niall Gartland
LARAGH United are sitting pretty at the top of the table in Division One after four games and one of the factors in their early season form is the influx of talented younger players to the scene, according to manager Darren Greenan.
The Monaghan native, now in his third season in charge, says that their initial target of avoiding relegation is already close to being achieved, so now they can turn their attentions to duking it out with the big boys for a place in the league semi-finals.
Greenan said: “We won Division Two in our first year. We struggled a wee bit last season but the experience of playing in the senior league is standing to us now.
“We still have a young team. A lot of the lads who seem like seasoned campaigners are only 23 or 24 or 25, it’s quite frightening.
“But the big thing from our perspective is that seven or eight of the u-17s have come into the squad. They’re bringing enthusiasm, they’re keeping the numbers at training high and they’re quality footballers as well.
“It’s especially helpful as we’ve had a few lads away between a couple of lads playing hurling with Cavan, Jack McKenna on the senior football panel and a lad was in with the u-20s as well.”
Another reason why Laragh are faring so well – they’re the only team in Division One with an unblemished record – is that they are coming out on top of tight games, something that wasn’t always the case last year.
Greenan said: “Last year we struggled a bit in the league, we were competitive in nearly all our games bar one or two but we were losing games by two or three points.
“This year we’re winning those games. If you look at the four teams we’ve played, we only got a point across those matches last year. This year we’re coming out on the right end of those games and it makes a massive difference in terms of the buzz and takes the pressure off.”
Looking further down the line, Greenan said: “Our first priority was to stay out of the relegation zone and we’re well on our way. We’re looking upwards instead of downwards, seeing if we can get into a league semi-final.
“Last year in the championship we ended up in a relegation situation. In our second game Gowna beat us by a point, if we’d won that we’d have been in a quarter-final. We got caught out in our third game against Mullhoaran then we had a terrible result in our last group match against Crosserlough. We beat Ballinagh handsomely I suppose in a relegation battle and probably shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. This year our goal is to get out of the group stages and we’d take it from there as sometimes it can depend on what sort of draw you get.”