Billy Sheehan’s reign as Laois senior football manager will get underway in the Shelmaliers GAA grounds in Wexford this afternoon in the opening round of the O’Byrne Cup.
A whole host of players are expected to make their first appearance for the Laois senior team in what is scheduled to be the first of three games in a week.
After today’s clash, Laois are due to host Meath in Stradbally on Wednesday night and then Wicklow in Crettyard next Saturday.
Covid disruptions and the weather may dictate otherwise but it’s all useful preparation ahead of Laois’s National League Division 3 campaign which begins on January 30 away to Louth.
Sheehan has called in a total of 21 players who weren’t involved in the 2021 campaign while seven of the side that played in the Leinster championship game against Westmeath aren’t involved at all.
Portarlington trio Robbie Pigott, Sean Byrne and Colm Murphy as well as Ballyroan-Abbey’s Diarmuid Whelan have opted against committing for this season while Seamus Lacey and Finbarr Crowley on the long-term injured list.
The experienced Colm Begley and Mark Timmons aren’t currently with the panel and it remains to be seen if they will be involved this year.
Of the 21 new players in a squad of about 40, 20 of them have never played championship football for Laois but opportunity will present for many of them in the coming weeks.
Wexford are under former player Shane Roche (who took over the job mid-season in 2020 following Paul Galvin’s departure) and though they’re in Division 4, they competed well against Dublin in last year’s championship.
What way the Laois team will shape up is very hard to tell at the moment though the three games over the next week will give an indication of what Sheehan and his management team – which includes his former colleagues Chris Conway and Beano McDonald – have in mind.
Coming off the back of a 2021 campaign that saw Laois fail to win a game, get relegated from Division 2 and lose to Westmeath by 16 points in the championship, expectations aren’t exactly high.
But today is a new start for all concerned as the 2022 season stretches out in front of them.
You can follow all of the action as it happens below: