Production line needs to get back to full speed

Tom Sheil sends in this ball for Laois against Meath in the Leinster MFC at O'Moore Park.Picture: Alf Harvey/hrphoto.ie
As Laois’ latest attempts to establish themselves as a competitive force in Leinster at minor level fizzled out on Saturday afternoon, it was hard not to think back to a time, not so long ago, when the county won games like this as a matter of routine.

As Laois’ latest attempts to establish themselves as a competitive force in Leinster at minor level fizzled out on Saturday afternoon, it was hard not to think back to a time, not so long ago, when the county won games like this as a matter of routine.

Up to 2007, Laois were the envy of the rest of the country, winning six Leinster titles in 12 years and producing top class talent envied both home and abroad.

When Laois won that minor championship in 2007, it was blessed with future senior players throughout the starting team. Seven of the side that played in the final have featured for the Laois senior team - John O’Loughlin, Donie Kingston, Kieran Lillis, Conor Boyle, Robbie Kehoe and Conor Meredith are all involved now while Sean Ramsbottom has been called up in the past. Zach Tuohy would no doubt be there is he was still around.

Since then, however, the fall off has been alarming. Lillis and Kingston were underage in 2008 but only James Finn from that team has seen senior action. From 2009, Ciaran Booth, Emmett Malone and Finn are all presently senior panellists, while Rory Bracken and Dermot Kelly have been fleetingly appeared.

Since 2010, however, only one player has graduated from minor level to senior, and that is Evan Costelloe who was only called up in recent weeks.

There can be no avoiding the fact that Laois are not producing teams competitive enough at minor level, and results over the last six years bear witness to that.

Between 2008 and 2013, Laois have played 13 games in the Leinster MFC, winning five and losing eight. The victories came over Longford (2), Louth, Wicklow and Carlow.

The defeats were suffered against Longford (2), Louth (2), Wicklow, Meath, Dublin and Offaly.

The problems go beyond minor level, but Laois cannot afford to replicate the last six years over the next six if they hope to be a competitive force at any grade in the years ahead.