Leinster SHC – Laois v Kilkenny
In Nowlan Park at 5.30pm
A busy season of big games continues for the Laois hurlers this evening when they make the short trip to Nowlan Park to take on Kilkenny in the second round of the Leinster championship.
Having lost narrowly to Dublin last Saturday evening, Laois are on the road once again – though it will be their last away game in Leinster with home ties against Wexford, Galway and Westmeath still to come.
What’s the team news?
Both sides have named their starting teams as Laois’s bad luck with injuries continues.
Having lost Ben Conroy, Stephen Maher, Willie Dunphy and Diarmuid Conway before last week’s game, captain Podge Delaney (shoulder) and experienced forward Ross King (hamstring) picked up injuries against Dublin and are ruled out for this evening.
Dealing with injuries are a central part of any sport but such a list of absentees is particularly hard for a county like Laois, who are coming from a much smaller playing base than most of their competitors as it is.
In any case, Seamas ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett has made two changes to the side that started last week – with Clough-Ballacolla’s Aidan Corby coming into midfield and his club-mate Jordan Walshe starting at full-forward.
Corby previously played championship with Laois in the 2017 season though this will be his first start of this campaign as he partners Jack Kelly in midfield and Fiachra C-Fennell moves back to defence in place of the injured Delaney.
Up front Jordan Walshe makes his first ever championship start in a full-forward line alongside PJ Scully and Mark Dowling.
Kilkenny have also named their team with TJ Reid returning to start at full-forward and line up alongside his fellow Ballyhale Shamrocks man Eoin Cody and Billy Ryan.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Fiachra C Fennell, Sean Downey, Donnchadh Hartnett; Ciaran McEvoy, Liam O’Connell, Ryan Mullaney; Aidan Corby, Jack Kelly; Cha Dwyer, Paddy Purcell, James Keyes; PJ Scully, Jordan Walshe, Mark Dowling
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Michael Carey, Paddy Deegan, Conor Browne; James Maher, Adrian Mullen, Walter Walsh, Padraig Walsh, John Donnelly; Billy Ryan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody.
What’s Kilkenny’s form?
Despite not having won an All Ireland since 2015, Kilkenny are going for a third Leinster title in a row.
Though they topped their section of the league, they went down to Cork in the Division 1 semi-final in what was a repeat of last year’s All Ireland semi-final loss.
They beat Westmeath by 5-23 to 1-19 last week in Mullingar.
What’s Laois’s record like against Kilkenny?
As you’d expect, it’s not great. The counties have met 32 times in the Leinster championship – with Kilkenny winning 26 of them and Laois the remaining six.
You have to go back 70 years, to 1951, for Laois’s last win in the fixture, a glorious time for Laois hurling when they knocked Kilkenny out three times in four years, including in 1949 when they won Leinster and reached the All Ireland final.
Prior to that, Laois’s other wins were in 1930, 1915 (when Laois went on to win the All Ireland) and 1914 (when they reached the final).
This evening’s game will be the first championship meeting between the sides since 1999, a game Kilkenny won comfortably on a scoreline of 6-21 to 1-14 in what was Brian Cody’s first year in charge.
But the games were much closer in their other clashes in the 1990s. Kilkenny were 2-14 to 2-12 winners in 1995 in Carlow while it was 3-11 to 1-14 in 1998 in Croke Park.
The sides have met a number of times in recent years in the National League with Kilkenny coming out in 2020, 2021 and 2022 as well as in this year’s Walsh Cup.
What are the odds?
Kilkenny are unbackable 1/33 favourites with Laois at 11/1 and the draw at 28/1. On the handicap betting, Kilkenny are -13.
Who’s reffing it?
Galway referee Liam Gordon is once again the man in the middle, making it the third championship game in a row where he has officiated Laois. He also reffed last week’s game with Dublin as well as last year’s All Ireland Qualifier against Waterford.
What’s the story with tickets?
Once again, in line with the GAA’s new policy, it’s an all-ticket game and tickets must be pre-purchased online or in participating SuperValu or Centra stores.
Tickets cannot be purchased at the ground and cash isn’t being accepted at the gate.
Tickets for any of the three stands are €20 while the city end terrace is €10. OAP stand tickets are €15 and juveniles are €5.
Is it on TV or being streamed anywhere?
No. The Wexford-Dublin game is on Sky Sports and is today’s only fixture on TV.
As ever we’ll have minute-by-minute coverage on our Live Blog while there will be live commentary on Midlands 103 and updates on RTE.
Laois minor hurlers in championship action
The Laois minor hurlers are also in championship action this afternoon for the third Saturday as they travel to Mullingar to take on Westmeath in a knockout preliminary quarter-final game.
Those games were essentially only seeding games to determine what stage of the knockout championship teams began it.
As Laois finished second in Tier 2, they play Westmeath, who finished second in Tier 3.
In a six-team group, Westmeath only picked up a point from their first two games as they drew with Meath and lost to Antrim.
But they recovered to beat Down, Derry and Carlow to take the second qualifying spot in that group behind Antrim, who take on Kildare in the other quarter-final today.
Should Laois win today then they’ll play Wexford, who were third in Tier 1, or Offaly. Kilkenny and Dublin were first and second in Tier 1 and so are straight into the semi-finals.
Laois manager Declan Qualter has made one change to the side that started against Offaly last week with Aaron Carroll from Camross coming into start in midfield in alongside his club-mate Eoghan Cuddy. Cormac Hogan from Clough-Ballacolla misses out.
The Laois-Westmeath game throws in at 12noon.
The Laois team in full is: Brochan O’Reilly (Portlaoise); Bobby Murphy (The Harps), Ciaran Flynn (The Harps), Joseph Pearson (Clough-Ballacolla); Thomas Brennan (Clough-Ballacolla), Tom Cuddy (Camross), Andrew McDonagh (Ballinakill); Eoghan Cuddy (Camross), Aaron Carroll (Camross); Ben Deegan (Camross), Liam Kirby (The Harps), Jack Breen (Castletown); Kevin Byrne (Camross), Jer Quinlan (Borris-Kilcotton), Cormac Byrne (Abbeyleix).