The Laois senior hurlers are back in action on Thursday night when they travel to Parnell Park to take on Dublin in their re-fixed Walsh Cup tie as Eddie Brennan continues to manage his playing resources ahead of the opening round of the league at the end of January.
Brennan used a host of new players in Sunday’s loss to Westmeath in Borris-in-Ossory – with first competitive starts for the likes of Paul Simms, Allan Connolly, Frank Flanagan, Daniel Comerford and James Keyes as well as sub appearances for Mark Hennessy, Cormac Rigney and Ciaran Comerford.
They will need a big win against Dublin on Thursday night to have a chance of reaching the semi-final against Galway next Sunday though Brennan’s clear priority at this stage is being in good shape for the visit of Wexford to O’Moore Park on Saturday, January 24.
That will mark the beginning of a hectic peroid for Laois of five league games in six weeks.
They’ll also face Dublin (away), Clare (away), Carlow (home) and Kilkenny (away) – all ahead of a Leinster championship game that will see them face Galway (home), Kilkenny (away), Dublin (away) and Galway (home) in five weeks in May in June.
Brennan says his side were “off the pace” against Westmeath.
“It’s that time of year where we’re definitely off the pace,” he said. “And we really have to up it now.
“Three weeks time (at home to Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford) is looming large on our horizon now and we’re going to play a team that will be a lot more ruthless than Westmeath were today.”
While Brennan acknowledged that Westmeath fielded a comparitively stronger side (with 12 starters from last year’s Joe McDonagh Cup final as opposed to four from Laois), he was happy enough with the effort of his young players.
“You have to put a bit of perspective on it. They started a hell of a strong team and I thought we were under pressure against a strong wind but our backs worked their way well into the game.
“We were looking at a few lads – a few U-20s there – and it was an education for a few lads. No qualms about the result. We faded which tells a story in itself but you have to say Westmeath were hungrier and looked that bit sharper.”
Although Laois are likely to field a changed team for Thursday’s trip to Parnell Park, Brennan said his panel is still light enough due to injuries and withdrawals.
“It’s a busy time. We’re going to be thin on the ground. There’s Fitzgibbon Cup coming up as well and tehre’s an element of looking at who has had game time and who needs game time and we have to look at that.
“But ultimately my focus is on getting ready for Saturday fortnight in O’Moore Park.
“We’re always trying to enhance squad and make it stronger because with the format there for the Leinster championship and for the league it comes thick and fast.
“It’s a real test for your panel. But you have to find out about your panel.
“It is what it is – you just have to push on. We’re gearing up for first round of the league that is coming up.
“The funny thing is, the league is starting in three weeks time and it’s over in nine weeks time unless you reach the quarter-finals.”
Laois take on Dublin in the Walsh Cup in Parnell Park this Thursday, January 9, at 7.45pm.