Laois hurling manager Eamonn Kelly says the target for his side is stay in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League.
Laois travel to Tralee on Sunday to play Kerry in the opening round which will be a crucial game in the battle to stay up. Kerry beat Laois twice in last year’s league but Laois avoided relegation thanks to a play -off win over Division 2 champions Westmeath.
Changes to the league structure this year means that there is no safety net against the Division 2 winners. The bottom two sides in Division 1B will play off against each other with the loser making the drop. Laois’s first two games are away to Kerry and at home to Offaly with Wexford, Limerick and Galway to follow after that.
“We want to maintain our Division 1B status. Ideally, it would be fantastic to avoid relegation and get into a quarter-final, which would provide ideal preparation ahead of the Leinster round-robin series.”
Kelly will bring a heavily-depleted squad to Kerry for the weekend – as cruciate trio Ciaran Collier, Mark Kavanagh and Tom Delaney are all long-term absentees.
Collier may return in April but Kelly doesn’t expect to have Kavanagh and Delaney available until May.
John Lennon is out for three weeks with ankle ligament damage and Cahir Healy will miss a fortnight with a hamstring problem.
Kelly said: “I only have 25 able bodies – and only three players on the panel for Sunday over the age of 25.”
It will be Laois’s first campaign in ten years without Willie Hyland while Clough-Ballacolla’s Darren Maher also stepped away from the panel recently. Rathdowney-Errill’s Ross King has been named captain.