The new Joe McDonagh Cup kicks off this weekend with the first round of games taking place and Laois have home advantage in the opening round as they entertain Westmeath.
Laois finished in the bottom two of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B but they proved toO good for Antrim in the relegation playoff, and that important win will hopefully provide a sufficient platform for Laois to stake a charge at claiming the very first Joe McDonagh Cup and a place in the All Ireland series.
The teams named ahead of Saturday’s game are:
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Lee Cleere, Leigh Bergin, Joe Phelan; Podge Lawlor, Matthew Whelan, Eric Killeen; Aidan Corby, Paddy Purcell; Ben Conroy, Cha Dwyer, James Ryan; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Willie Dunphy. Subs: Eoin Fleming, Ciaran Comerford, Mark Kavanagh, Jack Kelly, Stephen Maher, Paddy McCane, Ryan Mullaney, Conor Quinlan, PJ Scully, Colm Stapleton, Cian Taylor
WESTMEATH: Shane McGovern; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Liam Varley, Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville; Eoin Price, Robbie Greville; John Gilligan, Derek McNicholas, Joey Boyle; Niall O’Brien, Niall Mitchell, Ciaran Doyle.
What Westmeath players should we watch out for?
Allan Devine scored a total of 1-37 in five games in the league but is on the bench for this occasion but the likes of Robbie Greville, Eoin Price, Niall O’Brien and Niall Mitchell offer a scoring threat too and they all impressed in the Fitzgibbon Cup for their respective colleges.
At the back Thomas Doyle is a quality full back, having done a number on Seamus Callinan in last year’s championship, while Derek McNicholas is another name to watch out for.
Another man to keep an eye on is Mountrath native, Paddy Carroll who has featured in goals for Westmeath in last year’s championship and this year’s league although he is listed as the sub-keeper for today’s game.
What’s Westmeath’s season been like so far?
Westmeath had an impressive NHL Division 2A campaign, winning all five games but that counted for nothing when Carlow overturned the Lake County in the final.
That loss ended their hopes of promotion to Division 1B. Despite that, it has to be remembered that they were unbeaten and in those five games they grabbed 5-90 so they know where the goals are.
What’s the history between the sides?
The latest meeting between these two was in last year’s opening round of the Leinster Championship round robin, and it was the O’Moore County who came out on top that day winning 1-23 to 2-17. Laois will be hoping that result will repeat itself this afternoon.
Only nine of the Laois team that started last year’s game start again today – with only four in the same position.
SCORERS – Laois: Ross King 0-10 (eight frees, one ’65), Stephen Maher 0-4, Aaron Dunphy 0-3, Paddy Whelan 1-0, Cha Dwyer 0-2, Enda Rowland (free), Cian Taylor, Willie Dunphy, Paddy Purcell 0-1 each. Westmeath: Alan Devine 0-5 (three frees), Niall Mitchell 0-4, Robbie Greville 1-1, Eoin Price 1-0, Paul Greville 0-2 (one free), Gary Greville, Cormac Boyle, Derek McNicholas, Shane McGovern, Jack Galvin 0-1 each
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (Abbeyleix); Cahir Healy (Portlaoise), Leigh Bergin (Shanahoe), Dwane Palmer (Camross); Ciaran Collier (Camross), Cha Dwyer (Ballinakill), Lee Cleere (Clough-Ballacolla); Paddy Purcell (Rathdowney-Errill), Ross King (Rathdowney-Errill); Cian Taylor (Portlaoise), Aidan Corby (Clough-Ballacolla), Ben Conroy (Slieve Bloom); Willie Dunphy (Clough-Ballacolla), Stephen Maher (Clough-Ballacolla), Patrick Whelan (Borris-Kilcotton). Subs: Aaron Dunphy (Borris-Kilcotton) for Corby (29), Matthew Whelan (Borris-Kilcotton) for Taylor (41), Sean Downey (Ballinakill) for Conroy (49), Eanna Lyons for Dwyer (62 mins), Eric Killeen (Rathdowney-Errill) for P Whelan (66 mins)
WESTMEATH: Paddy Moloney; Conor Shaw, Tommy Doyle, Tommy Gallagher; Gary Greville, Paul Greville, Joey Boyle; Aonghus Clarke, Cormac Boyle; Alan Devine, Derek McNicholas, Niall Mitchell; Shane McGovern, Robbie Greville, Killian Doyle. Subs: E Price for K Doyle (41), D Egerton for J Boyle (55), N O’Brien for McGovern (57), J Galvin for C Boyle (66)
REFEREE: James Owens (Wexford)
What are the odds?
Laois are currently 2/5 to open their McDonagh Cup campaign with a win, while Westmeath are 9/4 to beat Laois. A draw is 10/1.
When, where and how much?
3pm on Saturday, May 5th in O’Moore Park. It’s €15 for adults. Children U-16 go free.
Where can I follow the game?
We’ll be live-blogging the game on LaoisToday.ie as well as giving some updates on our new LaoisToday Sport Snapchat account. For those wanting to listen to commentary, Jack Nolan will be on duty providing you blow by blow commentary, so tune into Midlands 103.