There is a lot on the line for a number of Laois teams today and it will conclude this evening in O’Moore Park with the biggest of the lot.
It is a simple situation for Laois – they must defeat Westmeath or else they will be relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2023.
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.
Diarmaid 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.
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 this game.
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.
But Laois’s track record in winning these one off games is one that they will have to draw confidence from.
They saw off Antrim in the championship playoff last year and repeated that trick against today’s opponents in the league playoff a few weeks later.
Earlier this year, Antrim came to O’Moore Park in much better form than their hosts but Laois once again beat them to retain their Division 1 status.
Whatever happens, Laois’s season will be over after tonight – and hopefully it can end on a high note.
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