The Laois minor footballers will begin their Leinster MFC campaign this weekend, as they face a daunting trip to Navan to take on Meath.
Laois travel with only one big injury concern, that of Portarlington’s Rob Piggott, who damaged ankle ligaments a few weeks ago, but apart from that manager Mick Lillis has a full squad to pick from.
The squad have been boosted also by the All-Ireland success of Graiguecullen trio Trevor Collins, Brian Byrne and Jer Brennan, all of whome played their part in Carlow CBS winning their first All-Ireland Colleges ‘B’ final last Saturday in Croke Park.
They will have to channel that feel-good factor into the rest of the squad, however, as Laois have struggled to make an impression at minor intercounty level in recent years.
Laois’ last meeting with Meath, in 2013, resulted in a 2-13 to 0-9 loss. To make matters worse, Laois haven’t beaten one of the big three in Leinster - Dublin, Kildare and Meath - at minor level since the victory over Dublin in the 2007 quarter-final replay.
Looking ahead to the game, manager Mick Lillis admitted it was a big challenge facing his side. “Meath are a very serious team, when you play one of Dublin, Kildare or Meath in minor level in Leinster, your playing catch up, and this year is not any different. Meath would be much bigger, physically than us, and that’s a drawback at this grade.”
Meath’s two midfielders clock in at 6’4 and 6’7, meaning Laois will have to be smart with their kickouts to avoid playing to Meath’s strengths. Having the game in Navan is tough too, but Lillis is hopeful his side can turn in a performance. “Going to Navan is a drawback, and you’d be hoping the ref will be strong enough to make the hard calls, and that’s not something we are used to seeing.
“Too much of them go with the team that’s expected to win and that can make life difficult for teams trying to make the breakthrough. All we can do is go there well prepared and perform to the best of our abilities.”
There are a number of players involved from last year, with Barrowhouse’s Brian Daly one player of note after impressing in the Leinster Colleges SFC ‘A’ with Ardscoil na Trínoide from Athy. Conor Behan, David Aston, Aaron Dowling, Colm Murphy, Trevor Collins and Brian Byrne all survive from the team which were beaten in last year’s semi-final against Meath.
Throw in this Saturday in Navan is 3pm.