The 2020 season will get underway 24 days before the year actually begins as the O’Byrne Cup gets underway this afternoon.
The Laois footballers face Offaly in Round 1 of the competition in McCann Park, Portarlington at 2pm this afternoon.
Speaking ahead of this afternoon’s game, new manager Mike Quirke says he hopes to use this competition to blood a number of new players.
He said: “We’ve had a really good response. The fellas are responding really well to the training.
“We’re still only in the infancy of the whole thing but for the first month, we’re happy with what we have got.
“Obviously, in terms of getting competitive games, these O’Byrne Cup matches before Christmas are as good as any training session we are going to get in.
“But we have not taken it easy in training this week because we are playing Offaly today.
“We are still looking at this very much as a preparation for the National League which starts at the end of January.
“We’re going to go out and try to win the game but my primary goal is to try give as many players as we can as much game time as we can so that we can have a look at lads at this level and see if we think they are going to be able to contribute when we get to the more important stuff later in the year.”
And true to his word, that is exactly what he has done.
There will be first Laois senior starts today for Clonaslee’s Niall Corbet, Portarlington’s Jason Moore, Stradbally native Garry Comerford, Ballyfin’s Darragh Connolly and last season’s U-20 player Diarmuid Whelan from Ballyroan-Abbey.
Corbet and Comerford are both former League of Ireland soccer players with Corbet named in goals – where he played with UCD, Bohemians and Waterford – instead of attack where he impressed for Clonaslee in this year’s Laois IFC.
Comerford, who played club football with Ballincollig in Cork this year as well as with Cork City, is named at wing-forward with Darragh Connolly, one of Ballyfin’s top players in their run to the Laois SFC semi-final, on the other wing.
Whelan is corner-forward while Moore, captain of the Portarlington team that also reached the last four of the Laois SFC, is named at wing-back.
Mountmellick’s Gearoid Hanrahan returns to full-back after not being involved since 2016 while Michael Keogh was involved in 2018 under John Sugrue but not in 2019.
None of the Portlaoise contingent are involved as they take some time following their run in the Leinster club championship, nor is there any involvement from intermediate champions Rosenallis.
John O’Loughlin, however, who will be part of the Rosenallis set up next year as he is set to return to his home club is named at midfield and is the side’s most experienced player as he begins his 13th season.
He is one of six starting players who featured in last year’s championship – the others being Trevor Collins, Robbie Pigott, Eoin Buggie, Paddy O’Sullivan, Eoin Lowry and Evan O’Carroll.
We’ll have a live blog from McCann Park this afternoon where you will be able to follow all of the action as it happens.