O'BYRNE CUP - New start for Laois under McNulty

The Justin McNulty-era of Laois football begins in earnest at 2pm in O'Moore Park this Sunday when Wicklow arrive for the opening round of the O'Byrne Cup.

The Justin McNulty-era of Laois football begins in earnest at 2pm in O'Moore Park this Sunday when Wicklow arrive for the opening round of the O'Byrne Cup.

As ever with the pre-season competition, the Laois side that takes the field will be a mixture of experienced heads and some of the newer kids on the block. Colm Parkinson is back with the panel after a two-year absence and should feature while Donie Brennan is also likely to make an appearance for the first time since the early stages of 2009. Gary Kavanagh is also involved for the first time since 2007.

Of the older crew, Padraig Clancy, Padraig McMahon and Ross Munnelly are in the mix again and while Darren Rooney and Chris Conway are both with the panel, neither of them will feature on Sunday as they are currently injured.

There will also be some notable able absentees as John O'Loughlin and Donie Kingston are committed to playing with UCD in this competition while Kieran Lillis is with DCU.

When you consider that four of the backs that featured prominently under Sean Dempsey aren't involved then there's bound to be some players making their first competitive starts. Cahir Healy's studies in London will hamper his involvement, an ankle operation has ruled Rory Stapleton out while Peter O'Leary and John Scully both opted off the panel.

In that context some of the new players that could feature are the likes of the O'Dempsey's trio of Robbie Kehoe, Rory Bracken and Michael Finlay and The Heath's Daithi Carroll.

This game should also kickstart the season for players like Denis Booth and Colm Begley. Begley impressed during the league last year before enduring a frustrating championship while Booth was one of the finds of 2010 and if he can build on that then he could be a key player for Laois in the coming season.

Should Laois beat Wicklow on Sunday then they are likely to face Louth, who should be too strong for Athlone IT. A possible semi-final opponent would be Meath, Carlow or UCD.

The O'Byrne Cup is scheduled to run throughout January before the National League begins in February when Laois host Meath in the opening round.

Meanwhile, there is a meeting for all potential Laois minor footballers in The Heath on Saturday at 2pm.

All clubs, including hurling clubs are requested to send in players who are interested in playing Minor Football for Laois in 2011