It’s been a season of ups and downs for Laois’ senior football team, but everything which has gone before could be a distant memory by Saturday night, as a coveted victory over Kildare would certainly be a highpoint.
The omens aren’t particularly good for Laois, having won just one of the last five meetings between the teams. Included in that run was the infamous day in Tullamore, when Kildare inflicted one of Laois’ most humiliating defeats in recent memory as they slumped to a 2-18 to 0-9 drubbing.
No doubt the management and players will be keen not to look back, not to dwell on the past, but for the players involved on that occasion, the memory of the game is likely to return to them in the build up to Saturday night. Players by their very nature are competitive, and they will want to give a more accurate reflection of their abilities.
Kildare don’t have to look so far back for demoralising defeats, and their exit of the Leinster championship two weeks ago was as hard as they come. A controversial refereeing decision denied them at least a replay, and they must overcome the disappointment of that before they move on.
To their credit, and that of their backroom team, which includes Hugh Campbell, the mental coach involved with Armagh during McGeeney and McNulty’s playing days, have shown great resolve in bouncing back from adversity.
They have shipped their fair share of criticism this year, much like Laois, for the make up of their attack. John Doyle (below) has been released to a third midfielders role further out the field, and it has denied them their most potent attacking threat closer to goal.
While it is good news for Laois that Doyle won’t be spending the game within 30 yards of their goal, he will still need to be given special attention. McNulty has opted for man-marking assignments for some players in Laois’ championship games, and it’s unlikely this weekend will be any different. Cahir Healy is Laois’ best man-marker, but with Doyle to be deployed further out the field, it is more likely that Padraig McMahon or Peter O’Leary will be detailed to pick him up.
From Laois’ point of view, the performance against Tipperary was encouraging. While the Premier were by no means a comparable test to what Laois will face this weekend, the manner in which Laois went about their business was encouraging. There is unquestionably room for improvement, but the seeds of a more direct game were sown.
Donie Kingston’s positioning on the edge of the square was key to that, as he gives the attack a fulcrum around which to operate. With Ross Munnelly also playing superbly at present, and MJ TIerney, Daithi Carroll and Barry Brennan all pushing for a place in the forward line, Laois do appear to have options at their disposal in the final third of the field.
Kildare will defend more tenaciously and in a more organised manner than Tipperary did, but if Laois are realistic about challenging teams like Kildare, they will have to cope with it.
They are undoubtedly the underdogs this weekend, Kildare’s history in the Qualifiers would have to have them as the bookies favourite, but there is impressive character developing within this Laois team. If they can win midfield, which they should, then they can heap more disappointment on this Kildare team.