A Leinster hurling quarter-final in Tullamore. A few weeks back, it was in such a scenario that one of the best days in recent Laois hurling history played out, so can we have a repeat performance this Saturday evening?
Hurling in the county is in a better place now than it was about ten months ago, with minor hurlers through to a Leinster semi-final against Wexford and the senior hurlers claiming a much-needed win over Carlow just under two weeks ago.
It’s not a revolution or anything like that, but there is a better mood around the county at least as things stand, and the senior hurlers will be hoping to tap into that on Saturday evening against Dublin. The memories of their last meeting in 2010 (see left) should be present in the minds of many of the players that took to the field that day, and should be turned to Laois’ advantage this weekend. It was a crushing defeat that day against Dublin, and although the wides and sending off that day distorted the result, and Laois know they can compete with Dublin.
The win over Carlow showed some of Laois’ best and worst aspects. Willie Hyland gave a virtuoso display at wing-forward, scoring an incredible 0-13 and doing as much as a captain could be expected to do to lead his team to victory. That was enough to beat Carlow, but Laois can’t expect him to dominate to the same degree this weekend. He got good support from Stephen Maher and Brian Dunne on the half-forward line, but it was at the expense of the full-forward line, who never scored during the game.
Considering the talent in there, it was a surprising statistic to read after the game, but with the half-forward line so dominant, the supply into them was limited. Teddy McCarthy touched on it after the game, and it should be something they have worked on over the last couple of weeks.
Certainly the likes f Neil Foyle and Tommy Fitzgerald have played enough at this level to know how to make an impact, and with the right supply they can do damage. The supply will have to be good on Saturday, but if Laois can get it into them it will ease some of the burden on Hyland.
Dublin will be expecting to account for Laois this weekend, but they won’t take Laois too lightly, and Anthony Daly has spoken before of his respect for hurling in the county. He was a relieved man two years ago in Nowlan Park and he knows that Laois will be going out to win this game.
Dublin’s relegation from Division 1 was a massive blow to both him and the squad too, and they will feel they have something to prove. Daly is a good motivator and in all liklihood Dublin will be primed for a fast start, to quell any potential uprising from Laois and then use the rest of the game to secure a comfortable win.
Laois are more than capable of starting the game well themselves, but fitness will be an issue, especially if the current warm weather extends into the weekend. Dublin have advanced as a team and as hurlers over the last few years, and one of the key areas which sets them apart from where Laois are now is the strength and fitness of the squad. With Laois having started back to collective training later than expected this year, fitness most likely will be key factor.
To that end, they will need to keep the scores close, because if a gap starts to emerge early in the game it will be hard for Laois to reel it back in.
Dublin have been beset by injuries too, and while Laois haven’t exactly been lucky themselves, it is something of a boost for them that Dublin will be missing some of their keys players like Ross O’Carroll (thing), possible Alan mcCrabbe (shoulder) and Paul Schutte (knee), while Ryan O’Dwyer is suspended.
If all of those are missing, it will level out the playing field to some extent, but the tak at hand is still huge. There was a time when Laois beat Dublin regularly, but those days are consigned to memory now. The first step for Laois to securing what would be a fantastic win comes in the opening 15 minutes this weekend, when they will need to hit the ground running and let the Dubs know they are in for a battle.
The minors have given hurling supporters in the county hope, so hopefully the senior can do likewise. It would be great to see another big Laois crowd travel over to Tullamore as they did for the minors. All going well, they could see a repeat performance too.