Brought to you in association with Hanlon Kitchens
Laois hurling manager Eamonn Kelly has watched his side rattle Wexford already this year but he knows that display that day in Wexford Park has Sunday’s opponents forewarned.
Whatever chance Davy Fitzgerald’s side had of being complacent ahead of this fixture probably evaporated that day.
Speaking ahead of the game, Kelly argued that Wexford are the fittest team in the country at the moment and were the only ones to beat eventual league champions Galway during the spring.
They also beat Kilkenny on the same weekend that Laois were taken to extra time by Kerry in the league relegation playoff. So, while Laois have the feather in their cap of four competitive wins in a row, it’s hard to disagree with Kelly when he says that this week’s game is a considerable step up.
“We played them in the league and gave them a good run so it’s not as if we are going to catch them on the hop. We’re going to have to be at our best to be competitive.
“We hurled ok that day but Wexford were through so you’d wonder how focused they were. We know that you can’t afford any mistakes against them, they’re a top class side, the fittest team in the country, the only team that have beaten the league champions so we know what to expect. We have to get our own house in order.
“The Round Robin gives lads a chance to come in and cut their teeth but now on the stakes are higher.”
And with Wexford expected to bring a huge crowd to Portlaoise, Kelly is hopeful that the Laois supporters respond in kind.
“We’re hoping to get great support – it’s what we need here. Wexford played Kilkenny in the league in Nowlan Park and it was a sell out. To be fair we had a great turnout in Tralee last week and the lads were cheered off the field. The lads were in the dressing room with their chest out. If we can get good support here it would be huge and it would certainly add to the atmosphere.
“Our mindset now is get own house in order. We set ourselves targets and we need to hit a personal best in all of them. The improvements Wexford have made in six months is phenomenal. We can focus on our performance and try and get the best out of ourselves on the day.”
But right now the buzz around the camp couldn’t be any better. A winning run and a home game against a high-profile team is what players put in the hard yards for.
“We’re delighted where we are at the moment. The lads are excited and we can’t wait. All the players are out on field half an hour before they need to start training.
“We’re not here to roll over. We’re going to give it a great crack.”