Laois senior footballers will look to bounce back from their opening round defeat to Mayo on Saturday night as they head for Letterkenny this weekend.
Justin McNulty’s side will face Donegal for the third time in eleven months on Sunday, having beaten them in O’Moore Park last April before losing out to them in the Division 2 final in Croke Park.
Both teams have seen their progress diverge since then, as Donegal came within a couple of points of making the All-Ireland final last year, while Laois have struggled for form since their league heroics in 2011.
Donegal are in the midst of an early-season injury crisis too, as they will be without their two most influential forwards - captain Michael Murphy and corner-forward Colm McFadden. Murphy underwent surgery on a groin injury last month, while McFadden has been ruled out with a bulging disc in his back. Both are not expected to return for another month at least. Midfielder Michael McElhinny, who was at the centre of a war of words between Jimmy McGuiness and DCU manager Niall Moyna earlier this year when he injured his ankle in a practice match, is also likely to miss out. McElhinny was introduced after 25 minutes in Donegal’s loss to Down at the weekend, scoring a goal during his time on the field, but went over on the ankle again towards the end and is now likely to miss out.
Donegal are also without Eamon McGee and Eoin Waide, although influential wing-forward Christy Toye is close to a comeback after suffering with shoulder problems for the early part of the year.
From Laois’ point of view, Niall Donoher remains on the long-term injury list, and is likely to miss Laois’ entire league campaign with a knee injury. Other than his absence, Laois picked up no new injury worries from their game with Mayo on Sunday, although there could still be changes as Justin McNulty admitted after the game he may have to go ‘back to the drawing board’ in the wake of the result.
The Padraig Clancy experiment at full-forward should to be given another day out, but with little support offered to him the management team will surely detail either or both of Paul Cahillane and David Conway to stay closer to the Timahoe man.
Their could also be a reshuffle in defence, where Shane Julian struggled throughout the game before being replaced by Brian Mulligan with just over ten minutes to go. Colm Begley filled in at centre-back in his absence, and as Justin McNulty continues to try to find the former Stradbally footballer a position in which he can play to his potential, he may be tempted to give him a starting role in the heart of the half-back line.
Throw-in this Sunday is pushed back to 2.30pm to accommodate Laois supporters who are making the long trip north, while the game is also scheduled to be broadcast live on TG4.