After losing their last two games by a combined margin of 58 points, Laois hurling manager Eamonn Kelly knows that improving the defensive side of their game is crucial ahead of a massive couple of weeks for his young team.
They go to Wexford Park this Sunday to take on already-promoted Wexford in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League – and they are most likely to be playing a relegation playoff against Offaly or Kerry the following Sunday.
They then face two Leinster championship round robin games in April – beginning at home to Westmeath on April 23.
“When you look at the Limerick game (which they lost 6-33 to 1-19), we scored 1-19 and we hit 16 wides and dropped six balls short,” says Kelly.
“Our main focus has to be on improving our tackling and our defensive set up.
“Once we find the right balance we can try and steady the ship. I’m blue in the face saying that they’re good hurlers and they’ve a great attitude. But a lot of these lads are in their first year playing senior hurling and their first year doing strength and conditioning work.
“They’ve shipped a lot of big beatings in the last 12 months, not just in this league. We’re going to have to change things around and we have to stop conceding these big scores.
“We in the management have to take some of the blame. We have to get the best out of what we have.”
But Kelly says that he won’t be reverting to a sweeper system.
“Last year they played Limerick and were beaten by 30+ points and they were playing one or two sweepers. The sweeper is not the answer either.
“We’re scoring well enough but we’re leaving ourselves open for these sucker punch goals.”
Laois travel to Wexford this Sunday with Kelly saying it’s unlikely he will have any of his injured players back. Matthew Whelan and Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher missed the Galway and Limerick games and it’s thought that their likely return date is aimed at the Leinster championship.
Dwane Palmer is also a doubt with a hamstring injury while Conor Phelan is out for the season.
Laois’s poor scoring difference means that they’re almost certain to be in the relegation playoff. Their only only hope of avoiding it is to cause a massive shock by beating Wexford and then hope that Offaly beat Kerry.
SEE ALSO – Laois hurlers fall to big loss to Limerick