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Injury crisis deepens as depleted Laois hurlers prepare for relegation showdown with Westmeath

Laois hurlers general

The Laois hurlers play Westmeath this Saturday evening in O’Moore Park in the final group game of this year’s Leinster championship.

Qualification isn’t on the cards for either side. Instead it’s a case of survival. The loser of this game will drop to the Joe McDonagh Cup for the 2023 season.

It has been a fairly wretched season for Laois, one where they’ve played 12 games so far and lost 11 of them, most of them by big margins.

To make things worse, they’re currently dealing with another lengthy injury list, something which has dogged Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett’s second term as manager since he took the helm ahead of the 2021 season.

Indeed there’s hardly any good news on the injury front with Laois’s list of absentees currently extending into double figures.

Diarmuid Conway, Podge Delaney, Willie Dunphy, Conor Phelan, Liam O’Connell, John Lennon, Stephen Maher and Jordan Walshe have all missed recent championship games and haven’t trained this week.

Cha Dwyer, Mark Dowling and Ciaran McEvoy all went off with hamstring injuries against Galway last Saturday and are unlikely to play either.

While the Laois medical team may be able to patch up some of the walking wounded to play some part, however small, there’s no doubting that it will be highly depleted Laois team that will take to the field on Saturday evening.

In that context the likes of Ciaran Byrne, Brandon McGinley and Tomas Keyes will be in the mix to start, all of whom have tasted action off the bench in recent weeks.

Ross King returned to start against Galway last week while Ben Conroy has started the last two games after his injury layoff.

Westmeath, Joe McDonagh Cup champions last year, are coming off the back of an historic draw with Wexford in Mullingar last Saturday and are the 4/5 favourites for Saturday’s game.

Westmeath’s draw with Wexford last weekend means that Laois must beat their midland rivals to stay at this level. A draw would be enough for Westmeath.

The sides met in the Division 1 league relegation playoff in O’Moore Park last summer, one Laois won 1-27 to 0-27 after Westmeath had been reduced to 14 men late in the first half.

Westmeath have since made an instant return by winning the Division 2 league title and have fared better than Laois in the championship so far.

As well as drawing with Wexford, they were competitive for long spells against Kilkenny in their opening round and against Dublin in their third outing. Their biggest defeat was against Galway, who they lost to by 25 points.

Laois, after running Dublin to two points in their opener, have since lost by 23 points to Kilkenny, 27 to Wexford and 22 to Galway.

It leaves them with a massive task on their hands against a full-strength Westmeath side coming off the back of win of the best championship results in their history.

Throw in in O’Moore Park on Saturday is at 6pm.

SEE ALSO – Fixture details confirmed for Laois’s Tailteann Cup clash with Westmeath

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.