Brought to you in association with Joe Mallon Motors Portlaoise
A year which began with such optimism is now in danger of ending in disaster.
After two matches in the Joe McDonagh Cup, the Laois hurlers find themselves bottom of the table alongside Meath – winless from two games.
And with three games remaining, their chances of reaching the final are almost nil.
Laois would have to win all of those games and hope that one of the top two teams, Westmeath or Antrim, slip up considerably.
Right now, the prospect of relegation to the Christy Ring Cup is the biggest danger facing Laois.
The bottom team in the Joe McDonagh Cup table will be relegated while the team who finishes second last will play the Christy Ring Cup winners in a play-off.
Here we take a more in-depth look at this weekend’s game scheduled for 1.30pm in Dunloy:
Antrim have made five changes from the team which defeated Carlow the last day. One of them is enforced as Eoghan Campbell is suspended.
Arron Graffin comes in for Joe Maskey in defence with Eddie McCluskey replacing the suspended Campbell in midfield.
High scoring forward Neil McManus is replaced by James McNaughton, Conor Carson comes in for Michael Armstrong while Conor McCann is in for Daniel McClusky in the full forward line.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Joe Phelan, Matthew Whelan, Lee Cleere; Colm Stapleton, James Ryan, Ryan Mullaney; Paddy Purcell, Cian Taylor; Cha Dwyer, Ben Conroy, Ciaran Comerford; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Willie Dunphy.
ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Arron Graffin; Paddy Burke, Conor McKinley, Ryan McCambridge; Eddie McCluskey, Simon McCrory; Nigel Elliott, Conor Johnston, James McNaughton; Donal McKinley, Conor Carson, Daniel McCluskey.
What Antrim players should we watch out for?
Normally, Neil McManus would be the stand-out player for Antrim so the news that he isn’t starting is certainly a boost for Laois.
Nigel Elliott and Conor Johnston are both capable of picking up the void left by McManus in the scoring stakes though.
What’s Antrim’s season been like so far?
Mixed. Relegated from Division 1B of the league by Laois just a couple of months ago after a relegation play-off in Dunloy.
But they have began this competition with renewed vigor and have swept aside the challenges of Meath and Carlow so far. A big contrast to how Laois have gotten on.
What’s the history between the sides?
These two have played some cracking close encounters in recent years and it was the Division 1B relegation play-off a few months ago that stands out the most when Laois just edged out Antrim.
Here’s the teams from that game:
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Joe Phelan, Leigh Bergin, Lee Cleere; James Ryan, Matthew Whelan, Podge Lawlor; Paddy Purcell, Ben Conroy; Willie Dunphy, Cha Dwyer, PJ Scully; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Stephen Bergin. Subs used: Aidan Corby, Ciaran Comerford, Mark Kavanagh
ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Aaron Graffin, John Dillon, Ryan McCambridge; Joe Maskey, Conor McKinley, Paddy Burke; Eoghan Campbell, Ger Walsh; Conor Johnston, Neil McManus, Michael Armstrong; Donal McKinley, Conor McCann, Nigel Elliott.
What are the odds?
Laois are going into the game as slight outsiders at 11/10, with Antrim 10/11 to get a third straight win. A draw is 9/1.
When, where and how much?
1.30pm on Saturday, May 19 in Dunloy, Antrim. It’s €15 for adults. Children U-16 go free.