The Laois hurlers take on Dublin this afternoon in the final round of games in the Allianz Hurling League and there is a lot at stake.
Both teams have won one game and lost three and are level on two points each after four outings.
It means that the winners will take fourth place in the Division 1B, be safe from relegation and have a quarter-final against the top team in Division 1A to look forward to next weekend.
The losers will have to meet Antrim in a relegation playoff – with the losers of that game going down to Division 2A for 2019.
However, as Laois have a better scoring difference than Dublin, a draw would be enough to keep them safe.
Both sides show two changes from their last game. For Laois Donnacha Hartnett is replaced at corner-back by Joe Phelan from Camross while Mark Kavanagh comes into the full-forward line in place of Ciaran Comerford.
Dublin bring John McCaffrey and DCU Fitzgibbon Cup star Donal Burke into the starting team at wing-back and wing-forward respectively in place of Darren Kelly and Paul Crummey.
There is no starting place for Liam Rushe while they are also without their Cuala players who are in All Ireland club final action on St Patrick’s Day.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (Abbeyleix); Joe Phelan (Camross), Leigh Bergin (Shanahoe), Lee Cleere (Clough-Ballacolla); Podge Lawlor (Ballinakill), Matthew Whelan (Borris-Kilcotton), Eric Killeen (Rathdowney-Errill); James Ryan (Rathdowney-Errill), Paddy Purcell (Rathdowney-Errill); Ben Conroy (Slieve Bloom), Cha Dwyer (Ballinakill), Willie Dunphy (Clough-Ballacolla); Ross King (Rathdowney-Errill), Neil Foyle (Borris-Kilcotton), Mark Kavanagh (Rathdowney-Errill)
DUBLIN: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Bill O’Carroll, Eoghan O’Donnell; Shane Barrett, Chris Crummey, John McCaffrey; Tomas Connolly, Fiontan McGibb; Donal Burke, Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe; Ronan Hayes, Ryan O’Dwyer, Paul Winters
What’s the history between the sides?
Laois and Dublin used to meet very regularly but following Dublin’s elevation to hurling’s top table, meetings between the two have become less infrequent.
This is the first league meeting between the sides since 2005 but they did meet in last year’s championship when a very understength Laois side put up a brave performance for long spells before eventually trailing off and losing 2-28 to 1-15. Only eight of the Laois team that started that game will start again today. Interestingly only five of the Dublin team that started that night start today’s game.
What Dublin players should we watch out for?
Ryan O’Dwyer at full-forward will probably be the danger man again for Dublin while 36-year-old Conal Keaney is back with the squad after an absence of a couple of years and is named at centre-forward.
Danny Sutcliffe at wing-forward is also a fine player while Donal Burke is back in the mix too after a very good Fitzgibbon Cup campaign with DCU as they reached a first ever final. Full-back Eoghan O’Donnell also featured on that DCU team. Paul Winters has been on the frees in recent games.
What has Dublin’s season been like so far?
Bad. They were well beaten by Offaly in their first game in Croke Park which put them on the back foot and then only beat Antrim by a point in their next game in Belfast.
They have since been well beaten by Limerick and although they put up a better showing against Galway, they have just one win from four games.
What are the odds?
Laois are 3/1, Dublin are favourites at 3/10 and the draw is 11/1.
Where can I follow the game?
We’ll be providing updates throughout the afternoon on our Live Blog. There will also be updates on Midlands 103.