The Laois senior footballers began life in Division 4 of the Allianz Football League in O’Moore Park on Saturday night.
It was the first league game for new manager John Sugrue and as he targets instant promotion, he’ll be happy his side have two points on the board and +9 to their name in scoring difference already.
We’ve picked out seven talking points as attention now turns to next weekend’s trip to Leitrim.
1 – Winning margin
If you’d been told before the game that Laois would win by nine points, you’d definitely have taken it so the final score of 2-12 to 0-9 in Laois’s favour was definitely an encouraging outcome.
Laois mixed the good with the bad in what was a poor enough game overall but coming off the back of successive relegations and a bad championship campaign last year, Laois badly needed a win for a confidence boost under new management.
While Limerick missed three good scoreable frees either side of half-time and Jamie Lee also saw a goal chance come back off the post, Laois were the better side and the winning margin could be useful down the line if scoring difference comes into it.
2 – Unfortunate Attride
Stephen Attride was recently named captain for the second successive season but he lasted only five minutes as he pulled up with a hamstring injury.
It’s both a big loss to Laois and a bad blow for Attride who has suffered a lot with injuries – and with games coming thick and fast over the next couple of weeks, he’ll be hoping that this latest setback doesn’t keep him on the sidelines for too long.
3 – Impressive debutants
Six Laois players made their first senior league starts and all six can be happy with how they fared. Ruadhri Fennell and David Holland coped well with the Limerick attack while Shane Nerney dealt confidently with anything that came his way too. Finbarr Crowley was a bundle of energy and intensity driving forward from wing-back while Brian Glynn got through a lot of work and Aaron Dowling showed well, kicked a nice point and very nearly had a goal.
Add in impressive performances from Eoin Lowry and Trevor Collins, who only have a handful of appearances behind them too, and more than half the Laois team that started were very inexperienced at this level.
All showed enough to indicate that they’ll see plenty more game time over the next couple of weeks.
4 – New look Laois
The introduction of so many new faces meant that a lot of the more experienced players weren’t used, for one reason or another. Mark Timmons, Darren Strong, Niall Donoher, Colm Begley, Darren Strong, Brendan Quigley, Kevin Meaney and Donie Kingston have all been mainstays of the Laois team for the last seven or eight years but only Begley and Donoher saw game time last night and both off the bench.
With the exception of Kevin Meaney, who has retired, you can expect most of the others to feature at some stage of this campaign but at the moment they are going to have to force themselves into the starting 15.
5 – Walsh on fire
The absence of Donie Kingston – who was among the subs but wasn’t used after his recent return to the panel – leaves a void up front in terms of scoring power but on this occasion Gary Walsh stepped up to the plate, finishing with 1-6 to his name, 1-2 of it from play. The goal was a screamer and his two points after that showed how good he can be when on form and in confidence.
Paul Kingston worked well in the play-making centre-forward role, Eoin Lowry kicked three nice points from play while Evan O’Carroll also impressed when introduced. Laois have attacking options and if Walsh can maintain that level of performance then he’ll be a handful for any defence this season.
6 – Busy schedule
Last night’s game was the first in a busy run of fixtures for the Laois footballers and the first of three successive weekends they’re in action.
They travel to Leitrim next Sunday and are then at home to Waterford six days later. They then have a spare weekend before resuming on February 25 away to Wicklow, at home to Antrim the following week and then away to London on March 11. They finish up with the short trip to Carlow on March 25.
To win promotion Laois need to finish in the top two while there is also a league final in Croke Park on Saturday, March 31, for the two promoted sides.
7 – Nice touch
While there wasn’t a huge crowd in O’Moore Park, in line with a fall in attendances in recent years, Laois GAA made a good effort with those that did come through the gates.
Supporters were given flags as they came through the gates and could also have their picture taken with a big photo frame at the new Laois GAA kit van – with over 100 photos later posted to the Laois GAA Facebook page by talented Graiguecullen photographer Paul Dargan.
Tallied with a decent match programme, a nice playlist of songs over the PA system before the game and tea, sandwiches and biscuits for the media in the press box, new PRO Pat O’Sullivan is off to a flying start!