Now entering his tenth year as a Laois Senior Hurler, and with a new manager in place, Portlaoise clubman Tommy Fitzgerald has high hopes for the year to come. With new management comes a new backroom team, and with a new backroom team comes change. Over the years Fitzgerald has seen his fair share of managers and backroom staff come and go, but he believes Laois GAA made the right decision in ratifying Seamus Plunkett.
Known for his modern approach to management, Plunkett has been cited as exactly what was needed in Laois. Fitzgerald reckons that the panel will benefit from the management’s ‘very professional approach, and good backroom team’ as Laois look to make up for last year’s disappointing campaign.
With their pre-season preparations delayed due to the lack of a manager,’ Cheddar’ Plunkett has been making up for lost time with six training sessions a week between pitch and gym. According to Fitzgerald there are no signs of any ill-effects from their rigorous training regime, just positives as the players are feeling fitter than ever.
Looking forward to next Sunday when Laois will travel to Newbridge to take on Kildare in the opening round of the National League, Fitzgerald and the Laois team alike will be hoping to get the ball rolling with a win, and as Fitzgerald says himself, “it doesn’t matter if we win by ten points or we only win by one, a win is a win.”
Fitzgerald was quick to point out that Kildare are a team on the up having leisurely secured promotion from Division 2B last year, and then winning the Kehoe Cup last month, he says that Laois won’t be underestimating their opponents.
Despite making the drop down from Division 2A last year, and being 2/7 favourites to gain promotion from Division 2A this year, Fitzgerald reckons that Westmeath could prove stern opposition to Laois’ aspirations. He noted their shock victory over Anrtim last summer, and their narrow defeat to Galway as reasons why Westmeath could prove stronger title contenders than the bookmakers believe.
“It’s going to be 50/50 between ourselves and Westmeath, they’re a good team and they came close to going up last year. They’ll be just as eager to make the step up as us.”
Even as one of the more senior players on the panel Fitzgerald has no guarantees when it comes to a starting position, and given Plunkett’s introduction of a number of fresh faces to this year’s panel, he says there is good competition for places.
Laois will open their National League campaign against Kildare next Sunday in Newbridge, before going on to play Kerry, Westmeath, Derry and Wicklow in their search to return to Division 2A.