Liam Sheedy is part of the Antrim back room team for 2018.
Dublin Galway Limerick Antrim Laois Offaly
Laois begin their NHL Division 1B campaign this Sunday afternoon, and it promises to be an incredibly tough test of their abilities, with the league looking more competitive than ever.
Here, we take a look at all five teams Laois will face over the next two months, to see how they are faring ahead of the new hurling season.
Manager: Terence McNaughton
Main Man: Neil McManus
Team News: The midfielder Paul Shiels has retired, which will be good news for Laois, as he has an impressive scoring record against the county. Ciaran Johnson has dropped out, while a lot of new, young players have been introduced. The big news is that former Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy is part of the backroom team, attending sessions and games.
Last Year: Promoted from Division 2A despite finishing second to Carlow, who then beat them in the Christy Ring Cup final.
Play Laois on: Saturday, February 17 in O'Moore Park @ 7pm
Manager: Pat Gilroy
Main Man: Liam Rushe
Team News: The appointment of Pat Gilroy raised a few eyebrows in hurling circles, but his impact has already been felt, as players have returned to the panel. Conal Keaney, Jack McCaffrey and Danny Sutcliffe have all rejoined the panel, while Anthony Cunningham, of Galway hurling and Laois football fame, is in the back room team.
Last Year: Relegated from Division 1A in the league, they followed that up with an underwhelming championship, which included a win over Laois in the Qualifiers.
Play Laois on: Sunday, March 3 in O'Moore Park at 2.30pm
Manager: Míchael Donoghue.
Main Man: Joe Canning
Team News: Galway opted out of the Walsh Cup this season, and were holidaying in New York and Cancun over the Christmas and New Year, so they are currently behind all counties in their preparations.
David Burke and Joe Canning will miss the early rounds of the Allianz League so won't feature in Portlaoise next week, while Cyril Donnellan has retired.
Several promising newcomers have been called into the panel. Conor Cosgrove (Ardrahan), Joe Mooney (Loughrea), Kevin McHugo (Tommy Larkins), Jack Coyne (Castlegar), Sean Linnane (Turloughmore) and Brian Concannon (Killimordaly) all featured for the Galway U-21s in their narrow semi-final defeat to eventual All-Ireland champions Limerick last August.
Shane Cooney (St Thomas’), younger brother of forward star Conor, and also Shane Bannon (Clarinbridge), who was part of the All-Ireland winning minor side of 2015, are among the players called up..
Last Year: They had a rather good 2017 season, in fairness to them. Won Division 1, the Leinster SHC and the All-Ireland title. Somehow, they are still in Division 1B, despite winning the league last year. Only in the GAA.
Play Laois on: Saturday, February 3 in O'Moore Park at 7pm.
Manager: John Kiely
Man Man: Declan Hannon
Team News: They have a 38 man panel, 10 of which are tied up with Na Piarsigh for the foreseeable future. Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes and Graeme Mulcahy. Richie McCarthy is only back from three weeks in Australia, so is likely to miss the opening round game against Laois at the least.
Last Year: Gave Laois a real hammering in the NHL last year in O'Moore Park, but were beaten in the semi-finals by Galway. A fairly underwhelming championship followed, where they lost to Clare and then Kilkenny.
Play Laois on: Saturday, January 27 in the Gaelic Grounds at 2pm.
Manager: Kevin Martin.
Man Man: Shane Dooley.
Team News: The arrival of Kevin Martin as manager has breathed new life into Offaly. A raft of players have re-joined the panel, notably 2016 captain Colin Egan, Dan Currams, Conor Mahon, Derek Morkan and Derek Molloy. They are joined by the hardy veterans like Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin and Sean Ryan. There are fitness doubts over Ryan, Bergin and Cillian Kiely at the moment, however.
Last Year: Laois have been enjoying a fairly good time of it against Offaly of late, and they defeated them in O'Moore Park last year. Lost in the league quarter-finals, before an unconvincing run of it in the championship. Exited the in the Qualifiers with a heavy defeat to Warerford.
Play Laois on: Sunday, February 25 in O'Connor Park at 12.30pm.