Laois senior footballers will begin thier 2013 league campaign this Saturday night as they welcome Armagh to O’Moore Park.
Justin McNulty will be leading his side out against his home county for the second time in as many years, as Laois look to book an instant return to Division 1.
McNulty has a couple of injury concerns ahead of the game, with Conor Meredith the major concern at present. The O’Dempsey’s club man missed Sunday morning’s final practice match before the league, against Cork in Stradbally, and it remains to be seen whether he can recover in time for this weekend.
Also set to miss out is Courtwood’s Niall Donoher, as his battle against a knee injuries continues. Donoher missed all of last season with the problem, and while he has put in huge effort to regain full fitness, he will not be in the running for the Armagh game. Justin McNulty did confirm, however, that he is getting very close to a return.
The game with Armagh this weekend will see McNulty pit himself against Paul Grimley, who was assistant manager to Joe Kernan whan Armagh won the All-Ireland in 2002.
Grimley took control in July of last year and has already put his stamp on the panel, cutting 14 players from the 2012 squad, including veteran defender Andy Mallon.
Grimley would appear to going with a youth policy for the upcoming league, and with the Crossmaglen players unlikely to be involved due to their upcoming All-Ireland club semi-final clash with St Brigid’s of Roscommon, it could be a very inexperienced side facing Laois this Saturday.
The Laois team is expected to be named later this week, with Justin McNulty also confirming that the final cut of players would take place some time before the league gets underway. A captain for 2013 has not yet been appointed either.
Laois will have a much more competitive panel this year than they had in 2012, with Donie Kingston, Denis Booth and Conor Meredith all involved, while Padraig McMahon has now had a full pre-season.
There will be plenty of selection headaches for McNulty and his management team too, a welcome change from last year when Laois were low on back up, particularly in defence.
Having made it to the All-Ireland quarter-finals last year, Laois have been installed as one of the early favourites among most bookmakers to secure a promotion place, along with Galway.
They will have to do it the hard way though, as four of their seven games are away from home. Laois will have to travel to Derry, Longford, Westmeath and Wexford over the course of the league.
Throw in this Saturday night is 7pm, with admission priced at €13 for adults, €5 for students and OAPs while U-16s go free.
See this week’s Leinster Express for an extensive preview including an interview with Justin McNulty and an analysis of each of the teams in Division 2.