The long awaited day is here at last for the Laois U-20 footballers.
It’s Leinster final day, with Laois and Dublin preparing to do battle in O’Connor Park.
Laois are in their first provincial decider at this level in a decade when they face Dublin in O’Moore Park.
That was a Dublin side managed by Jim Gavin and they had too much for Laois on that occasion.
You have to go back to 2007 for Laois’s last win at this level and they will be hoping to end the run this evening.
The manager named his starting team yesterday and it showed no changes from the side that defeated Meath in the semi final.
Laois previously defeated All-Ireland champions Kildare and Westmeath so they certainly will not fear Dublin.
Ahead of tonight’s clash, we have profiled each of the 34 players who are at manager Billy O’Loughlin’s disposal.
Check it out below:
Name: Matthew Byron
Social media: @bearbyron_10 (Instagram)
Son of All-Star goalkeeper Fergal, Matthew is carving out a name for himself at this grade this season.
He is yet to concede a goal from open play so far in the championship and has made some very important saves in the wins over Westmeath and Meath.
Underage again at this grade next year too.
Name: Niall Gorman
Social media: @niallgorman1 (Instagram)
Matthew’s back-up is Emo No 1 Niall Gorman who is a very capable keeper too.
Played a number of times in the Andrew Cordon Cup and is also eligible for the grade again next year.
Name: Michael Dowling
Social media: @michael_dowling_ (Instagram)
Michael Dowling may not be the biggest corner back you’ll ever come across, but he has the heart of a lion and he is as tenacious in the tackle as they come.
Struggled somewhat against Westmeath but put in brilliant performances against Kildare and Meath. Another player who is eligible to play again next year.
Name: Seamus Lacey
Social media: @seamus_lacey (Instagram)
Son of Eamon Lacey, Seamus, like Matthew Byron above, is another young man making a big name for himself.
Full back looked like a problem position for this Laois team at the start of the year with Portlaoise’s Gary Saunders deciding not to commit but Lacey stepped in and has not put a foot wrong.
Will have a big job on his hands to curtail Kieran Archer this evening but he has shown so far that he is up to whatever is thrown at him.
Name: Alex Mohan
Social media: @alex_mohan55 (Instagram)
Like Dowling, Alex Mohan is the type of corner back that all attackers hate being marked by because he simply gives you no space.
His use of the ball is always efficient and he gives serious effort every time he takes to the field. He is also eligible next year.
Name: Colin Slevin
Social media: @_Slev__ (Instagram)
The vice-captain has been plagued with injuries this year but things seem to be clicking into the place for him just at the right time.
Like Dowling above, Slevin isn’t the biggest but he has a serious engine and is well capable of taking a score if provided with the opportunity. Slevin is also underage again next year.
Name: Sean O’Flynn
Social media: @sean.oflynn (Instagram)
It has already been an incredible 12 months for Sean O’Flynn and if Laois manage to win this game, it will really cap it off.
A championship win with Courtwood last year saw him parachuted into John Sugrue’s Laois seniors where he made four championship appearances including starts against Westmeath and Meath.
This meant that O’Flynn, who only sat his Leaving Cert in June, was unavailable for the first two games but once the seniors were knocked out by Cork, he came straight into the team for the Meath game and was excellent. He is also underage again next year.
Name: Dean Brophy
Club: St Joseph’s
Social media: @dean_brophy17 (Instagram)
Son of selector Liam Brophy, Dean is a flying wing back who has incredible stamina and can easily get up and down the pitch.
Capable of kicking a point too, his running ability is a key factor in the way Laois set up as he invariably starts attacks from defence. He is also eligible again in 2020.
Name: Jack Lacey
Club: St Joseph’s
Social media: @jacklacey06 (Instagram)
Jack Lacey had never represented Laois at any grade before this year but in the absence of Sean O’Flynn, he started at centre back against Kildare and Westmeath where he hardly put a foot wrong.
Ironically, a foot injury ruled him out of contention for the semi final win over Meath but he is said to be back in the running for a place on the bench this evening.
Like all bar Seamus Lacey listed above, Lacey is also underage in 2020.
Name: Kevin Byrne
Social media: @kevinbyrne1 (Instagram)
Kevin Byrne shot to prominence in 2018 as an integral part of the Ballylinan team that reached the county final where they ultimately lost out to Portlaoise.
Has made a number of substitute appearances this year and has shown he is capable to slot in when required.
Name: Tom Kelly
Social media: @tomkelly73 (Instagram)
Kelly enjoyed a brilliant season in 2018 as he started every game in O’Dempsey’s run to the county final where they were also defeated by Portlaoise.
However, injury has hampered Kelly this year and he underwent an operation a number of months ago which has ruled him out of this competition. He is also underage again next year.
Name: Dylan Kavanagh
Club: The Heath
Social media: dylan_kav00 (Instagram)
A very versatile player, Dylan Kavanagh can operate comfortably in either defence or attack.
Kavanagh has been unable to force his way into the team so far but he will play a big role for his club later this month when the club championships get underway.
Name: Killian Horgan
Social media: @kill_horgan (Instagram)
Man of the match for his club in the junior football final last year, Killian Horgan is another very versatile player who can play in defence or attack.
Such is the competitive nature of this panel, he has been unable to force his way into the squad so far but he is underage once again next year.
Name: Eoin Kennedy
Social media: @eoin.ig (Instagram)
Eoin Kennedy is a very good defender who has won minor and U-21 county titles for his club over the last number of years.
Like Horgan above him, he has found opportunities hard to come by but he would be well capable if called upon.
Name: Rob Tyrrell
Social media: @robert.tyrrell (Instagram)
Rob Tyrrell was one of four players on this squad who spent time with John Sugrue’s Laois senior footballers this year.
He made two appearances in the league and has shown since that he is a real player for the future with his displays in this competition
Name: Eoin Dunne
Social media: @eoin_dunne_ (Instagram)
Laois have two twin towers in the middle of the field and Tyrrell’s compatriot is Rosenallis’ Eoin Dunne.
He mixes aerial supremacy with a real eye for scores and he also looks like someone who would be very capable to play at senior level next year.
Name: Niall Dunne
Social media: @niall6dunne (Instagram)
It is amazing really that someone with the ability that Niall Dunne possesses can’t nail down a starting place on the team but that shows the level of depth that manager O’Loughlin has at his disposal.
Dunne did start the first two games against Kildare and Westmeath but the return of Mark Barry saw him relegated to the bench for the win over Meath – where he appeared in midfield as a second half sub.
Niall already has an intermediate medal with Courtwood under his belt and will be eligible for this grade again next year.
Name: Bernard Wheatley
Club: St Joseph’s
Social media: @bernardwheatley00 (Instagram)
Another one of the 6ft plus club, St Joseph’s Bernard Wheatley has made two substitute appearances this season for this team.
He is well capable of fielding ball and as he is underage again next year, the experience he will gain from battling with Rob Tyrrell and Eoin Dunne in training is going to prove invaluable.
Name: Ronan Coffey
Social media: @_ronancoffey (Instagram)
Showed what he is capable of in the win over Meath where he put in a man of the match performance that saw him cover every blade of grass before being forced off with injury.
Laois will be hoping he is fully fit for the game tonight as his workrate and clever use of possession will be crucial. He is also underage again next year.
Name: Michael Doran
Social media: @michaeldoran.1 (Instagram)
After struggling with injury as a teenager, Michael Doran is absolutely flying it now and he has scored in all three of Laois’s games so far.
After a breakthrough year with Killeshin at senior level last year, Doran has continued that form here and will look to do the same this evening.
Name: Mark Barry
Social media: @mark_barry11 (Instagram)
After Sean O’Flynn, Mark Barry made the most amount of senior appearances of any member of this U-20 team.
His substitute appearance against Derry three days before Laois’s opener against Kildare ruled him out of that game and the Westmeath win but he returned to the team for the Meath match and fired four points.
He will improve for that game and is also underage again next year.
Name: Alan Kinsella
Social media: @alan_kinsella (Instagram)
Alan Kinsella was the fourth member of this squad who was part of the senior set up this year – although he did not make an appearance.
He has been one of Laois’s most consistent performers this year and is the real link man in attack as he plays as an arc to Diarmuid Whelan and Dan McCormack.
Name: Dan McCormack
Dan McCormack is a handful. He may not win every ball that is kicked his direction, but he causes chaos for defences just by his presence.
He was the match winner against Westmeath and he set up the goal for Alan Kinsella in the win over Meath. It will be very interesting to see how Dublin will try to combat him.
Name: Diarmuid Whelan
Social media: @diarmuid_whelan (Instagram)
The captain has led by example in his second year at this level as he has put in a string of fine performances in the championship.
He kicked ten points in the win over Kildare and he scored freely against Westmeath and Meath. Will surely step up to the senior panel next season.
Name: Jason Maher
Social media: jaymaher99 (Instagram)
The Portlaoise youngster is the definition of Mr versatile as he has ended up on almost every line of the pitch at different stages this year.
Traditionally a forward, Maher has also operated in defence and his workrate is second to none with his willingness to work wherever he is asked to unquestionable.
Name: Jack Owens
Social media: jack.owens._ (Instagram)
Like Niall Dunne, the fact that Jack Owens can’t nail down a starting spot in this team is testament to the strength that exists in the squad.
Owens is extremely powerful and when he gets the ball in his hand, he heads straight for goal and at serious pace. His introductions off the bench have also been impressive and he too is eligible again next season.
Name: Ross Brennan
Social media: ross_brennan8 (Instagram)
Ross Brennan suffered an horrific leg break in the 2017 Laois IFC final where Portlaoise lost to Emo and he spent much of last season recovering from that.
But he is back now and has been named on the bench in every game so far without making an appearance as yet.
Name: Mikie Dempsey
Club: St Joseph’s
Social media: @mikiedem99 (Instagram)
Like Jason Maher above, Dempsey is comfortable in both defence and attack when on the field.
And the young St Joseph’s man has been used there by manager O’Loughlin in the substitute appearances that he has made.
Name: Barry Howlin
Social media: @barry_howlin (Instagram)
Midfield on the O’Dempsey’s junior team that reached the final last year, Howlin is a player who will surely make the club’s first team this season.
Comfortable in midfield or attack, he has found opportunities hard to come by but he is underage again next year.
Name: Paddy Walsh
Social media: @paddywalsh00 (Instagram)
Paddy Walsh is another exciting young forward that hails from Killeshin.
He has a real eye for goal but has found it difficult to get on to the team this year. He is eligible again next term though.
Name: PJ Daly
Club: The Heath
Social media: @pj_daly950 (Instagram)
Daly is probably a little bit unlucky not to get start so far this year but he did make big contributions off the bench against Kildare and Westmeath.
Can play in midfield or attack and is also underage for this grade again next season.
Name: Sean Condon
Social media: @seancondon14 (Instagram)
The powerful Clonaslee forward has also found it difficult to get an opportunity with the team this term.
He is well over 6ft tall and has a serious pair of hands. He will be a weapon for Clonaslee as they attempt to achieve promotion to the senior ranks later this year.
Name: Jack Owens
Social media: @jack_owens00 (Instagram)
The second Jack Owens on the team and like Condon above, this one also comes from Clonaslee.
Another young man who can play out around midfield or in attack that has found his opportunities to play this season rather limited. He is eligible next season however.
Name: Josh Lacey
Club: St Joseph’s
Social media: @joshlacey200 (Instagram)
And finally, the last member of the squad is also the youngest – Josh Lacey, brother of defender Jack.
Josh is the only player from last year’s minor team to make this squad but a persistent hip injury has kept him out of competitive action for the majority of the year. He will be able to play here for the next two years however.