The wait for a win under the second coming of Seamas Cheddar Plunkett goes on for the Laois hurlers following defeat to Kilkenny today.
Despite a much improved second half display, Laois were unable to claw back the nine point lead that Kilkenny gained in the first period.
We have seven talking points from the game below:
1 – Man of the match – Jack Kelly
Unlike in previous weeks, there are several genuine contenders for this.
In his first game of the year and in a new position, Stephen Maher hurled very well at wing back. Good in the air, he drove out on several occasions and hit a fine point too.
Paddy Purcell was very dynamic again and hit two fine points while Ross King and Ciaran McEvoy both had excellent second halves.
PJ Scully was Laois’s top scorer on the day and showed really well for the ball in the forward line too – desperately unlucky not to have two goals as well. While Sean Downey has developed into a fine full back and had a great tussle with Liam Blanchfield.
But the most consistent performer throughout the 70 minutes was Jack Kelly. This was the type of display that earned him an All-Star nominee in 2019 as he was simply everywhere. He also contributed two fine points in the process.
2 – Slow start the killer
Laois lost this game by ten points but it was the opening fifteen minutes where the game got away from them.
Kilkenny outscored them by nine points to one in that period and it was a string of wides, four of them, right at the start of the game that really knocked Laois for six.
They lost the second quarter by two points, the third by one and drew the final one. So sadly, it was here that the game was lost.
3 – A lack of goals
Laois have the third worst scoring difference in the country behind Westmeath and Wicklow – and their lack of goals does not help.
They have managed just two in their four games to date while conceding eight themselves.
Today they actually did manage to create two goal chance by Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy denied PJ Scully twice. They did have the ball in the net in the first half but the referee had already called play back for a free following a foul on Fiachra C-Fennell.
It is most certainly an area that they can improve upon.
4 – Some welcome returns
Laois’s injury list has been well documented at this stage with the likes of Mark Kavanagh, Ronan Broderick and Eric Killeen suffering season ending injuries before action even begun.
But today saw the return of several players for the first time this year. Stephen Maher started while Willie Dunphy arrived at half time and Eanna Lyons, who has spent the best part of 18 months sidelined, also returned a short time later.
Ryan Mullaney got on for his first minutes since an injury in the Wexford game and the noises around the likes of John Lennon, Cha Dwyer and Podge Delaney are positive.
5- The relegation playoff conundrum
The knock on effect of ending up here on Laois is the possibility that it will further delay the 2020 senior and premier intermediate finals.
Those competitions cannot be concluded until Laois exit the 2021 championship. At present, the league playoff against Westmeath is scheduled for either August 7/8 – a curtain raiser to one of the All Ireland semi finals.
Laois GAA had hoped to play the 2020 senior and premier intermediate championship finals in early August but if that game against Westmeath goes ahead as scheduled, it will most likely mean a further delay is on the cards.
Now, it is understood that there has been contact between Laois and Westmeath County Boards about playing this game earlier.
Should Westmeath reach the Joe McDonagh Cup final, they will have that game on Saturday July 17.
Laois face Wexford in a Leinster quarter final on June 26 and if they win that they will play Kilkenny in the semi final the following week.
If they lose, they play the loser of Antrim/Dublin on July 10/11 in a preliminary All-Ireland Qualifier game which also doubles as a championship relegation game.
And if they win that, they will enter Round 1 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers on July 17 – the same time Westmeath could be in the Joe McDonagh.
Should the two exit the championship at that time, it could theoretically, pending CCC approval, see the relegation game played July 24/25.
But, there are a lot of moving parts to that!
6 – Results elsewhere
Yesterday, Clare defeated Dublin by 0-34 to 2-23 while Antrim drew with Wexford 1-21 to 2-18.
Those results leave everything decided in terms of winners and relegation playoff positions with one round to go.
7 – What happens next?
Laois travel to Antrim next Saturday at 3pm for their final league game in what is now a dead rubber.
They will then turn their focus to the Leinster championship with Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford on June 26.