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Laois senior footballers will take to the field in three days time for the first round of the Leinster championship.
Peter Creedon’s men take on Longford in O’Moore Park at 3pm on Sunday and will go in search of a much needed morale boosting win.
Laois had a dreadful league campaign, blighted by injuries and suspensions, they won just two games and were relegated to Division 4 following a final round defeat to Offaly.
So, in order to salvage their season, Laois need to have a good championship run.
They begin against Longford, one of the two sides they managed to beat in the league, and Creedon and his management team will have to think carefully about what 15 they select to take their places.
Here, we take a look at the potential selection dilemmas facing Laois:
This is probably the easiest decision that Peter Creedon will have to make. GRAHAM BRODY has been Laois’s number 1 for the last four years and the Portlaoise man has barely put a foot wrong.
He is backed up this year by Mountmellick man Eoghan Keogh but there is no question that, barring injury to Brody, Keogh will remain in reserve.
Full Back Line
This is essentially five players competing for three places, although the match fitness of one of the five may rule him out.
Emo’s DARREN STRONG played in all of Laois’s league games and this versatile operator is likely to edge out James Kelly of St Joseph’s for one of the corner back positions.
It was extremely pleasing to see Mark Timmons back in club action for Graiguecullen recently but, having not played inter-county football since last summer, it is unlikely he will be sharp enough to start with the honour remaining DENIS BOOTH‘s.
Meanwhile, Timahoe’s DAMIEN O’CONNOR, another player who missed a lot of league action through injury and suspension, has showed well in recent challenge games and should grab the number 4 jersey.
Half Back Line
Stradbally’s EOIN BUGGIE started in all bar one of Laois’s league games and we predict that he will be the only championship debutant on Sunday.
He should wear the number 5 jersey beside team captain STEPHEN ATTRIDE who has sufficiently recovered from an ankle injury sustained against Antrim the league.
The final wing back position is slightly harder to call. The beforementioned James Kelly could get in there while it is understood that Pádraig McMahon’s quad problem is not healing as quickly as was hoped.
Colm Begley played there for the majority of the league but we understand his services may be required further up the field.
So in the absence of McMahon, GARETH DILLON, a player who saw very little action during the league could get the nod to wear the number 7 jersey.
This is a case of five players competing for just two spots. If we go under the assumption that COLM BEGLEY will be moved further up field, then he is likely to take one of the midfield spots.
The Stradbally man has had a number of compatriots in that position over the years but fellow parish man BRENDAN QUIGLEY is likely to get the nod.
The Timahoe man missed virtually all of the league through injury but he has played in all of Laois’s challenge matches so far.
Begley and Quigley are set to keep Arles-Kilcruise’s Kevin Meaney and Ballyfin’s James Finn on the bench while John O’Loughlin is likely to be used in attack.
Half Forward Line
Once again, the three half forward line spots will be hotly contested. Danny Luttrell, Ambrose Doran and David Conway all featured on the 40 throughout the league but it is understood that none of these will start on Sunday.
JOHN O’LOUGHLIN has been in fine form for his club St Brigid’s in the Dublin Senior football championship, scoring three points as they advanced to the last eight, and it is believed that he will start at centre forward.
The wing forward positions are likely to be taken by ALAN FARRELL and NIALL DONOHER. The Ballylinan and Courtwood club men played in almost all of the league games and they should start this one on Sunday.
Full Forward Line
This is somewhat easier to predict as two of the selections are nailed on – barring late injury.
DONIE KINGSTON was Laois’s highest scorer in the league by a country mile and if the O’Moore men are to win on Sunday, he will have to be on form.
Crettyard’s EVAN O’CARROLL added a different dimension to the Laois attack when he returned midway through the league and he will almost certainly start alongside Kingston.
The decision for the last corner forward spot will probably come down between PAUL KINGSTON, Seán Moore and Ross Munnelly.
The Arles-Killeen man may win the battle to grab the number 15 shirt although Ballyfin’s Moore has been showing very well in recent challenge games – scoring freely against Limerick, Sligo and Clare.
Graham Brody (Portlaoise)
Darren Strong (Emo)
Denis Booth (The Heath)
Damien O’Connor (Timahoe)
Eoin Buggie (Stradbally)
Stephen Attride (Killeshin)
Gareth Dillon (Portlaoise)
Colm Begley (Stradbally)
Brendan Quigley (Timahoe)
Alan Farrell (Ballylinan)
John O’Loughlin (St Brigid’s)
Niall Donoher (Courtwood)
Paul Kingston (Arles-Killeen)
Donie Kingston (Arles-Killeen)
Evan O’Carroll (Crettyard)