Home Sport GAA Mid-Term Report: Plenty of new faces for Laois footballers with Midlands Derbies...

Mid-Term Report: Plenty of new faces for Laois footballers with Midlands Derbies on the horizon

The Laois footballers

It’s not only mid-term for schools this week, but it’s also the halfway point in the Allianz Division 3 football league.

So far, John Sugrue’s Laois have won two of their opening three games and sit second in the table behind Longford.

Here, we take a look at the players who have featured so far and those who have yet to do so, review of the games played in the league so far, preview what’s to come and finally give them a grade on their performance to date.

Check out our first ever Mid-Term report for the Laois senior footballers below:

Player by Player Report

The Laois footballers have not released a panel yet but here will we go through what we know about all of the players to date.

From last year’s squad, Darren Strong and Niall Donoher have retired while the likes of Eoghan Keogh, Gary Walsh, Michael Keogh, Ruaidhrí C-Fennell and Rory Bracken are no longer part of it.

Meanwhile, David Conway (knee), Brian Glynn (ankle) and Cahir Healy (knee) have been forced to withdraw with various injuries.

We have identified 41 players.

Goalkeepers

Graham Brody (Portlaoise)

Graham Brody on one of his runs out the field

Nominated for an All Star last year, he has played every minute of Laois’s three league games.

Has been busier than he’d like to be – with six goals past him in the three games – while his runs out field have been targeted by the opposition

Scott Osbourne (Portarlington)

The Portarlington number one has become the Laois number 2 so far this season as he has been on the bench in all three league games.

With Mountmellick’s Eoghan Kehoe no longer with the panel, Osbourne is Brody’s deputy now.

Wayne Comerford (Stradbally)

Stradbally stopper Comerford caught the eye of the Laois selectors following a string of fine performances for his club last year.

He missed the Divisional competition through injury but was drafted into the panel after the O’Byrne Cup.

Aaron Cooney (St Joseph’s)

Despite not playing in goals for St Joseph’s last year after spending the summer in the USA, Cooney is the fourth keeper on the panel.

Having played minor and U-21 for Laois in the past, Cooney will be hoping to try challenge Graham Brody and Scott Osbourne for a place on the match panel.

Defenders 

David Seale (Portlaoise)

Photo Paul Dargan

One of the newcomers to the panel but has started every game at corner-back.

Replaced at half time against Louth but retained his position for the Sligo game. The man in possession at the moment

Shane Nerney (O’Dempsey’s)

Shane Nerney

Now in his third year on the squad, he has yet to nail down a regular starting place but has been starting throughout the league so far.

Wasn’t picked for the first game away to Down but came in for the sick Mark Timmons and has started every game since.

Stephen Attride (Killeshin)

Stephen Attride

The Laois senior football captain suffered a horrific head injury in the Leinster semi final win over Carlow and missed the rest of 2018 with Laois as a result.

He has returned to action this year and has been ever-present on the half back line – scoring a great goal against Sligo last week.

Colm Begley (Stradbally)

Colm Begley

Begley was a substitute in Laois’s first two games and was instrumental in the comeback win over Down in Round 1.

Missed a lot of pre-season with a hip problem but started the win over Sligo and was flying. Arguably Laois’s most consistent player for the last few seasons.

Marty Scully (Ballyroan-Abbey)

Marty Scully was previously involved with the Laois seniors as a teenager and his second stint at inter-county football has been eventful to say the least.

He came on and was substituted back off in the first half of the defeat to Louth before starting against Sligo and having a great game before being wrongly sent off after 55 minutes. That red card has been overturned and he is now free to face Westmeath this Sunday. 

Adam Campion (St Joseph’s)

Adam Campion of Laois in action against Conor Poland of Down

It often mystified many that Adam Campion was not given a chance with Laois but he is there now and he started the opening two games in the league this year.

He’s a tenacious defender with searing pace and although his lost his place in the win over Sligo, he will surely get other chances as the year progresses.

Gareth Dillon (Portlaoise)

Dillon was very unlucky not to be nominated for an All-Star in 2018 after a string of fine performances against forwards like Paul Mannion and Conor McManus.

After playing the first two games on the half back line, Dillon was restored to the full back line in the win over Sligo and Laois looked far better as a result. The new vice-captain will look to continue his good start into the rest of the year.

Robbie Pigott (Portarlington)

Andy McDonnell of Louth in action against Robbie Piggott, left, and David Seale of Laois Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Pigott departed the Laois panel last summer to head to the USA but he is back now and started the first two games against Louth and Down.

Picked up a shoulder injury and missed the Sligo game. He will most likely miss the Westmeath game this weekend.

Sean O’Flynn (Courtwood)

This young Courtwood defender is set to sit his Leaving Cert in June but he made his first appearance in a Laois jersey from the bench in the win over Sligo.

Was very harshly black-carded in that game and this 18-year-old is still eligible for the U-20 grade for the next two years. One of four U-20 players on the squad.

Mark Timmons (Graiguecullen)

Mark Timmons of Graiguecullen – Photo Paul Dargan

Recovered from injury towards the end of last year’s league to return to the full-back position that he filled for every championship game.

Was due to start the opening league game against Down but was hospitalized with an asthma attack and has been out since. Should be back in the mix for selection this weekend.

Trevor Collins (Graiguecullen)

Trevor Collins from Graiguecullen is the subject of our latest My Club and I segment
Collins struck for a first-half goal for Laois

This Graiguecullen defender was ever-present on the half back line for Laois last season but has yet to appear thus far.

He damaged his hamstring in IT Carlow’s opening Sigerson Cup game and has not played since. Manager Sugrue revealed recently that he is back in training so he may well be in the reckoning for Westmeath in Sunday.

Eoin Buggie (Stradbally)

Stradbally’s Eoin Buggie broke onto the Laois senior team under Peter Creedon but has found appearances hard to come by in the last two years.

Departed the squad in the summer of last year to head to America but returned at the start of this season. Featured at centre back for IT Carlow in the Sigerson Cup but has yet to make an appearance for Laois in the league.

James Kelly (St Joseph’s)

St Joseph’s James Kelly – Photo Alf Harvey

There was a degree of surprise when Kelly, who played in the championship in 2017, was cut from the panel at the start of last year.

But he has come back into the fold this season and while making the bench, has not made an appearance yet. Enjoyed a good run at full back for Maynooth in the Sigerson Cup also.

Denis Booth (The Heath)

The Heath’s Denis Booth has been on and off Laois panels for well over a decade now.

Has been named on the bench in a number of the league games but has yet to make an appearance. Seems to have fallen behind Shane Nerney and Mark Timmons in the pecking order for the number 3 shirt.

David Holland (Portlaoise)

Portlaoise’s Holland made a number of appearances for Laois in the league last year but injury has ruled him out so far.

He is back in training now though and should be pushing for a place in the 26 in the coming weeks.

Finbarr Crowley (Emo)

Finbarr Crowley of Laois

Emo’s Crowley played both league and championship for Laois last year and missed out on playing for the U-20s in their championship as a result.

Has been named on the bench in the league this term but has yet to make an appearance.

Paddy O’Sullivan (Portarlington)

Started in a number of the O’Byrne Cup games but picked up a nasty arm injury in the win over Wicklow and has been sidelined ever since.

It is unclear when he will be fit to return to action but he is a dynamic sort who can operate comfortably enough anywhere in defence. He was also crowned Mr Valentine in our recent Instagram competition.

Midfielders 

John O’Loughlin (St Brigid’s)

John O’Loughlin of Laois in action against Liam Devlin of Down

O’Loughlin has been ever-present for Laois under John Sugrue since he took charge and there is no reason for that to change.

Has started all three league games and has been extremely solid.

Kieran Lillis (Portlaoise)

11 November 2018; Kieran Lillis of Portlaoise celebrates following the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship quarter-final match between Moorefield and Portlaoise at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

O’Loughlin’s midfield partner for the majority of last season was Portlaoise’s Kieran Lillis.

The duo came back together for the first two league games but a red card for Lillis in the loss to Louth saw him miss the Sligo game through suspension. It will be interesting to see if he is given the nod this weekend against Westmeath.

Kevin Meaney (Arles-Kilcruise)

Kevin Meaney

Meaney announced his retirement at the start of the 2018 season but played in the Divisional competition at the end of that year and returned to the Laois fold after that.

He didn’t feature in either of the first two league games but came in for the suspended Lillis and fielded a lot of ball in the win over Sligo. Has certainly given the manager plenty to think about.

Robert Tyrell (Camross)

We’re not sure if a footballer from Camross has ever played for the Laois senior footballers but youngster Tyrell has made two appearances from the bench so far this season.

Both of those came in the wins over Down and Sligo – he is still eligible for U-20 so it will be interesting to see where he ends up as the season progresses.

Brendan Quigley (Timahoe)

Brendan Quigley was is getting ready for another season
Brendan Quigley

Laois and Timahoe fans missed seeing this towering midfielder in 2018 as a persistent back problem saw him miss the whole year for club and county.

But manager Sugrue confirmed at the start of the league that Quigley was back in training so we may see him before the end of the league.

Forwards 

Danny O’Reilly (Graiguecullen)

Daniel O’Reilly

Danny O’Reilly’s 2018 came to an end after the league final this year when he was assaulted and left in a coma following a night out.

But he returned to action in the O’Byrne Cup and started for the first time in the win over Sligo. It really is brilliant to see him back.

Donie Kingston (Arles-Killeen)

Donal Kingston of Laois

Kingston missed the end of pre-season after contracting a virus and was a sub in the first two games against Down and Louth.

He started at centre forward in the win over Sligo and linked up brilliantly with Evan O’Carroll – something we hope to see more of as the season progresses.

Conor Boyle (Portlaoise)

Conor Boyle in action for Laois against Sligo. Picture: Alf Harvey

The Portlaoise forward had been away from the inter-county game for four years before choosing to return to the fold this year.

Has played in all of the league games so far and certainly has looked like someone who has been away from this level for so long. After losing players like Brian Glynn, Niall Donoher and Darren Strong, he is a brilliant replacement.

Paul Cahillane (Portlaoise) 

After an injury-hit 2018 that saw him most almost all of it, Cahillane has hit the ground running this year.

Made a big impact from the bench in the win over Down and came on again in the loss to Louth. He started against Sligo and his movement was crucial as Laois pulled their sweeper all over the field.

Evan O’Carroll (Crettyard)

Evan O’Carroll of Laois in action against Conor Francis of Down

What a start to 2019 it has been for Evan O’Carroll who has unquestionably been Laois’s best player.

With Ballylinan’s Gary Walsh no longer on the panel, O’Carroll has stepped up and is Laois’s leading scorer. He has been balancing this with Seigerson Cup commitments with UCD but that came to an end last weekend as they were defeated in the semi final.

Damien O’Connor (Timahoe)

Damien O’Connor

The new Laois vice-captain has endured a difficult start to the 2019 season.

He started the opening two games but was substituted at half time in both of them and failed to make the 26 for the win over Sligo. Will be hoping to get another chance in the games that remain.

Mark Barry (O’Dempsey’s)

Mark Barry

Mark Barry had a brilliant season in 2018 in his first year of adult football and he has shown what he is capable of in his two appearances for Laois to date.

He appeared late in the win over Louth and started against Sligo where he kicked a great point and set up numerous scores, including the goal for Attride, thanks to his incredible passing range. Like O’Flynn, he is eligible for U-20 for the next two seasons.

Colm Murphy (Portarlington)

Colm Murphy of Laois in action against Daniel McCarthy of Down

Portarlington’s Murphy missed all of last year’s league with injury and then departed the squad to head to America for the summer.

But he is back now and has played in all three of the games so far. He showed very well from the bench in the win over Sligo and his direct style is very useful.

Sean Byrne (Portarlington)

Seán Byrne of Laois leaves the field after picking up an injury in the opening moments of the first half. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

A newcomer to the senior panel this year, Byrne previously captained the Laois minors to the Leinster final in 2016.

He started the first two games but went off with a facial injury in the opening minute in the defeat to Louth. Didn’t make the squad for the Sligo game but should be back in contention this weekend.

Eoin Lowry (Killeshin)

Eoin Lowry of Laois in action against Seamus Lavin of Meath during the O’Byrne Cup Round 1 match between Laois and Meath at O’Moore Park in Laois.

The Killeshin forward played a lot in the O’Byrne Cup but has found appearances hard to come by in the league.

Came off the bench in the latter stages against Sligo but will be hoping for more game time as the season progresses.

Ross Munnelly (Arles-Kilcruise)

Ross Munnelly

36-year-old Ross Munnelly is in his 17th season with the Laois footballers and it seems he is as hungry as ever.

Didn’t make it off the bench in the win over Down but started against Louth and was Laois’s highest scorer in Croke Park that day. Still has plenty to offer.

Paul Kingston (Arles-Killeen)

Paul Kingston celebrates with Pádraig McMahon after the first Laois goal
Paul Kingston celebrates with Pádraig McMahon

Paul Kingston really blossomed for Laois last year and his hat-trick in the win over Westmeath was probably his best day in a Laois shirt.

However, he has struggled to rediscover that form so far and after starting the first two games, he was left out for the win over Sligo. Has all the ability to force his way back in however.

Alan Kinsella (Courtwood)

Youngster Kinsella is the fourth player who is eligible for the U-20 grade that has been with the squad.

He has yet to make an appearance and his future probably lies with the U-20s this season. But the exposure to this level of training will certainly benefit him.

Alan Farrell (Ballylinan)

Farrell was a regular right throughout 2018 but underwent an operation on his knee in November and hasn’t appeared yet.

He is back doing some running though so it may not be too long before he is fit to contest for a position.

Benny Carroll (Portlaoise) 

One of the newcomers that impressed in Sugrue’s debut season and started a number of the championship games.

He missed the end of Portlaoise’s Leinster club run with a quad problem which manager Sugrue has described as being ‘rather long term’ in previous interviews.

Games played so far

Laois 2-15 Down 1-12

On paper this looked like it would be a very difficult assignment for Laois against a side who had been demoted from Division 2 last year.

And it looked like defeat for them but they came from 0-10 to 0-5 down early in the second half to eventually win by six and get the season off to a great start. 

Laois 1-9 Louth 3-8

All bubbles eventually burst and Laois’s league winning streak under boss John Sugrue came to an end in Round 2 against Louth.

The concession of three goals in seven first half minutes and the dismissal of Kieran Lillis after 20 minutes did the damage.

Laois 2-18 Sligo 2-10

A mark of any team is how they respond to adversity and the Laois footballers showed their bottle to get over the Louth defeat with a big win here.

A goal early in the second half from captain Stephen Attride set Laois on their way and then Donie Kingston made sure of it in the 45th minute when he drilled home a second.

What’s to come

Laois have four games remaining in Division 3 – two at home and two away.

They face Westmeath in Mullingar at 2.30pm this Sunday before hosting Longford the following weekend in O’Moore Park – Saturday March 2 at 7pm.

The local derbies continue in their final two games. Laois are off to Tullamore on Saturday March 16 for their penultimate game before facing Carlow in O’Moore Park on Sunday March 24.

If Laois reach the league final, it will be played the last weekend in March.

Grading: B

The loss against Louth stops this grade from being an A but Laois have done as well as could be expected after stepping up a Division this year.

Big games lie ahead and if Laois can get to another league final, this grading will certainly increase.

SEE ALSO – Mid-Term Report: Positive signs for Laois hurlers but crucial games to come