This time of year always sees an amount of GAA action and the past weekend was no different.
Three Laois county teams were in National League action returning two wins and a draw while there was also games in the local pre-season hurling and football competitions as well as Laois involvement in the Fitzgibbon and Ryan Cup third level hurling finals.
1 – Footballers win again in Aughrim
The Laois footballers were 1-16 to 1-10 winners over Wicklow in Aughrim in a game that they never really looked threatened in. Apart from the first ten minutes when Wicklow created a handful of scoring chances Laois were always on top.
They led 1-10 to 0-4 at the break and while they only managed one point from play in the second half – and that coming late on from Ross Munnelly – they were in control. Manager John Sugrue acknowledged afterwards that their four wins to date have been against the four weaker teams in the division – and that next week’s home game against Antrim will be their toughest to date.
While Antrim dropped points drawing at home to Wicklow, their next two games – away to Laois and at home to Carlow will decide their fate. Antrim have beaten Laois in their last two meetings – last year’s league and the 2016 championship – so Laois have been warned.
2 – Football settling in
The Laois footballers have used 27 players so far in this campaign as John Sugrue looks to find his best starting 15.
There was a couple of changes again last Sunday – but no new faces introduced. Niall Donoher made his first start of the year after coming on as a sub in all the other games while Finbarr Crowley returned to the starting lineup having missed the last two outings because of injury.
Another notable selection was Gareth Dillon at corner-back but Wicklow played with a two-man full-forward line meaning Dillon spent most of his time out the field. David Holland and Danny O’Reily didn’t feature at all while Evan O’Carroll came back into the team after being replaced at half-time against Waterford.
Ross Munnelly had another fine performance with three fine points from play and three frees while Gary Walsh hit 1-3, his goal in the first half his third of this campaign and a sign of a player really high in confidence.
Donie Kingston was once again kept in reserve and when he was introduced he spent most of his time around midfield, as he has been in recent training games.
The Laois management have a lot of options now and the make up of their team for Sunday’s meeting with Antrim will be very interesting.
3 – Hurlers lack of physicality costs them dearly
It has been said in previous games that the Laois hurlers are a bit smaller than the teams they are playing.
Even in the game against Antrim that they won, it was remarked about the size difference between the teams. And in the defeat to Offaly, this issue was magnified.
Laois were routinely robbed of possession when it came to a 50/50 battle, particularly in the first half and the loss of these battles more often than not led to Offaly scores.
4 – A first goal at long last
There were few positives for the Laois hurlers in their defeat against Offaly yesterday – but one of them was that they finally managed to get a goal.
It was a wonderful move with Paddy Purcell and Ross King combining before the latter cut in on the angle and picked out the top corner of the net.
Laois will now play Dublin in their final group game where a win or a draw will see them into the quarter final while a loss will put them in a relegation decider – most likely away to Antrim on Sunday, March 11.
5 – Ladies get off the mark in dramatic circumstances
The Laois Ladies have endured a very difficult start to 2018. Kevin Doogue’s side lost all three of their Division 2 games and knew that defeat on Sunday would have left them staring at relegation.
Instead, they played out a six goal thriller in Stradbally which was decided by a last minute penalty.
With the game level at 3-10 each, Laois were awarded a penalty and Clare Conlon corrected chose to kick it over the bar to seal a valuable one point win.
6 – Kelly Cup semi finals confirmed as Palmer Cup begins to take shape
The pre-season football competition is down to the final stages as we will have the semi finals next weekend.
From the 13 teams that entered, just four remain following the conclusion of the group stages.
Stradbally edged out Clonaslee-St Manman’s Gaels in Group A and they will play Courtwood after they got the better of neighbours Emo.
Meanwhile, O’Dempsey’s defeated Graiguecullen and they will play Arles-Kilcruise who received a walkover from Ballyfin Gaels.
In hurling’s Palmer Cup, champions Camross got the better of Borris-Kilcotton, who have now lost two games, while Abbeyleix and Castletown drew. After two rounds of games in that competition, Abbeyleix have three points, Camross have two, Shanahoe Gaels have two, Castletown Gaels have one and Borris-Kilcotton have still to pick up their first points.
7 – Third level joy for Laois duo
The third level hurling competions came to a conclusion last weekend and just like the football, a number of Laois players tasted success.
Rosenallis’s John Lennon was part of the UL squad that won a second Fitzgibbon Cup in four years while MJ Lalor from Ballypickas was on the NUI Maynooth team that won the second tier Ryan Cup.