Home Sport GAA Your guide to Laois v Limerick in the Allianz Hurling League tonight

Your guide to Laois v Limerick in the Allianz Hurling League tonight

Declan Hannon in action for Limerick in 2012 against Stephen 'Picky' Maher. Maher is injured for tonight's game while Hannon lines out at centre-back for Limerick
Declan Hannon in action for Limerick in 2012 against Stephen 'Picky' Maher. Maher is injured for tonight's game while Hannon lines out at centre-back for Limerick

Allianz Hurling League Division 1B

Laois and Limerick meet in O’Moore Park tonight in the fourth round of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B.

We tell you what you need to know about the game.

Story so far

While it has been a mixed league campaign for Laois, it has been another disappointing one for Limerick.

Laois lost narrowly against Kerry in their opening round game in Tralee, then bounced back with a big win over Offaly before being well beaten by Galway last weekend when massively understrength. A win over Kerry would have almost certainly ensured Laois’s safety in the division but they’re definitely now in a relegation battle.

For Limerick, their league was ruined by an opening round loss to Wexford and their promotion hopes were ended when Wexford followed that up with a win over Galway the following weekend. It means that Wexford are almost certain of promotion to Division 1A next season and Limerick will be outside the top division of hurling for the ninth successive season.

John Kiely’s men did respond by beating Kerry and Offaly as expected, although they were made work very hard by Offaly last weekend.

Team news

Laois named their team after training on Thursday night and from the side listed there are two changes from the one beaten by Galway last week. Cha Dwyer is back after a bout of tonsilitis while Aaron Dunphy is in for his first senior Laois start. Eanna Lyons and Aidan Corby make way.

Laois are still hit badly by injuries with Conor Phelan, Matthew Whelan, Podge Lawlor, John Lennon and Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher all out.

Limerick, who will be in the quarter-finals, have also continued their experimentation and make 10 changes from the side that beat Offaly. Freetaker Shane Dowling is in for his first start of the season as they bring the total number of players used so far to 32.

Laois team: Enda Rowland; Cahir Healy, Leigh Bergin, Dwane Palmer; Sean Downey, Paddy Purcell, Ryan Mullaney; Ben Conroy, Cian Taylor; Aaron Dunphy, Cha Dwyer, Paddy Whelan, Neil Foyle, Willie Dunphy.

Limerick team: Barry Hennessy; Stephen Cahill, Richie English , Sean Finn; Seamus Hickey, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; Darragh O’Donovan, William O’Donoghue; Shane Dowling, Gearoid Hegarty, James Ryan; Kevin O’Brien, Kyle Hayes, Colin Ryan.

What we need to know about Limerick

Since winning the Munster championship in 2013 and then almost beating Kilkenny in the 2014 All Ireland semi-final, Limerick have endured a couple of very frustrating seasons in league and championship.

They have failed in successive seasons to get out of Division 1B – a spell that goes right back to 2010 when they were relegated following a players strike. John Kiely, who managed the county to All Ireland U-21 glory in 2015, has taken over from his Garryspillane clubmate TJ Ryan as manager and comes into the role with a good pedigree having previously been selector on the 2013 team.

But their aforementioned loss to Wexford has consigned them once again to this division and they’ve used the games since to look at their options. Limerick have a massive depth of players having played in All Ireland minor finals in 2014 and 2016 and won the All Ireland U-21 title in 2015. Na Piarsaigh also won the All Ireland club title last year while another Limerick club, Kilmallock, were in the All Ireland final the year before.

As well as that, a large number of Limerick players have played in the latter stages of the Fitzgibbon Cup in recent years as Mary I, UL and LIT have all featured prominently. Bringing that quantity of players together and moulding a serious intercounty team is the challenge facing Kiely.

The team named for this evening’s game is a mixture of proven and new players but would be a good bit off what you’d expect to line out in the championship. Watch out for Declan Hannon at centre-back, a player who has massive potential but has struggled in recent seasons when playing in attack. Kyle Hayes was on the minor team last year while Colin Ryan is new to the scene too having missed all of last year through injury.

The league table and the permutations

Were Laois to do the unthinkable and beat Limerick, they’d certainly ease their relegation fears but the likelihood is that results will go to form and the favourites will win this weekend.

With Offaly playing Wexford in Tullamore on Sunday and Kerry playing Galway in Tralee, Laois need the following to happen to avoid the relegation playoff – and make a quarter-final (against the top team in Division 1A!).

They need to keep the score down against Limerick and hope that Offaly and Kerry both suffer big defeats.

Then they need to keep the score down against Wexford the following week and hope that Offaly beat Kerry. If that happens Laois will have to hope that their scoring difference is better than Offaly and Kerry’s as all three teams will finish on two points.

If Kerry beat Offaly (and the favourites all win this weekend), then Laois and Offaly would have to face off in a relagation playoff with the loser going down to Division 2.

How the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B table stands after three rounds of games
How the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B table stands after three rounds of games
What’s the betting?

Limerick are unbackable 1/25 favourites with Laois 10/1 and the draw at 25/1. The handicap is 10 points.

Where can we follow the action?

eirSport will be providing live coverage but if you don’t have that then our live blog of the action will keep you up to date. Midlands 103 will have updates also.

READ ALSO – Laois team named for clash with Limerick

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.