The Laois hurlers will have to make a 400-mile round trip next weekend in a bid to save their Division 1B Allianz League status following confirmation of their relegation playoff against Antrim in the Dunloy club grounds.
As Laois and Antrim finished in the bottom two of the division, they have to play off to see who makes the drop to Division 2A for 2019.
Laois won the regular league game between the sides in O’Moore Park last month but because Laois had three home games and Antrim only two, the playoff is fixed for Antrim.
And they have opted to play it Dunloy, which is about 45 minutes north of Belfast in the traditional hurling part of the county.
It’ll be the third home venue that Antrim have used this year following a game in Corrigan Park in Belfast against Dublin and in Cushendall against Limerick. Casement Park is currently closed.
According to AA Roadwatch, Dunloy is three and a half hours from Portlaoise and almost exactly 200 miles.
It had been thought that the relegation playoff game wouldn’t take place until the following weekend, March 24/25, but that’s not the case, leaving Laois with a short turnaround time to organise themselves. Even the logistics of such a long trip, particularly on St Patrick’s weekend, will be a challenge.
This will be the fourth year in a row that Laois find themselves in the relegation playoff. They beat Antrim in 2015, lost to Kerry in 2016 (but later beat Division 2A champions Westmeath in an additional playoff) and then beat Kerry last year in an extra-time epic.
The last time that Laois travelled to Antrim was in 2015 for the regular league game which they won 1-18 to 1-14. On that occasion the game was played in Ballycastle.
This will be Laois’s second game against Antrim this year – and they will also meet in the new Tier 2 Joe McDonagh Cup in May.
Should the two teams top the group in that, then they’d play a fourth time in the final in Croke Park, a game that is currently scheduled to be a curtain raiser to the Leinster final.
Laois were beaten last weekend by Dublin while Antrim claimed their first win of the campaign, against Offaly in Birr.
It’s a busy week of hurling action again with the four Division 1 hurling quarter-finals down for decision as well as the Division 1A relegation playoff between Cork and Waterford.