Laois manager Eamonn Kelly
It's not every day you'll lose an opening league game by ten points and still find some positives, but that was the scenario Eamonn Kelly found himself in after Sunday's clash with Limerick.
Having lost to Limerick by 33 points in 2017, Laois were at least competitive this time around, and with a bit more belief in the second half could have caused problems for the home side.
However, a young and depleted panel couldn't generate enough fluidity in their play to really make a close battle of it, but Kelly was still taking the positives from the game afterwards.
“I thought we had some very good individual displays, we had parts of the game where there is a lot of improving to do. We are down a lot (of players), we're calling on our panel at the minute, Lee Cleere was an awful loss when he went off, he was going a good job on Aaron Gillane.
“Donncha (Hartnett), when he settled into it he did well, I thought Leigh Bergin was outstanding, there were lots of good individual displays, but we didn't win.”
Having been within striking distance of Limerick for most of the first half, John Kiely's side rattled off four unanswered points before half time to lead by eight at the interval, making it a much tougher task for Laois on the restart.
In spite of that, Limerick were far from convincing, and Kelly felt his side could have done more to put pressure on the hosts. “I thought in the second half we should have been way more competitive than we were, we looked like we were afraid to push on when we did get it back to five points, but listen, they are a very good side.
“They have done a number on some very good teams so far this year, they beat Clare by nearly the same margin in the final of the Munster league.
“We've a very tough start to this league campaign, we just need to keep being competitive and try to hit our own targets. Our own hooks, blocks, tackles and turnovers weren't at the races today.”
The loss of Cha Dwyer before hand was a big blow, and his physicality and accuracy were missed from the half-forward line. With tougher games ahead, Kelly hopes to have him and a few others back in the fold soon. “Cha pulled his hamstring with the college during the week, it's difficult with the lads playing Fitzgibbon Cup.
“Sean Downey is the same way, this is his third match in a week, it's very hard to expect that of any lad at this time of year, but having said that, Limerick probably had a similar situation, but we probably don't have the strength in depth in the panel that they do.
“Cian Taylor, Donncha Hartnett and Colm Stapleton, they are all playing Fitzgibbon Cup as well. We have a young squad, so we just have to try and keep it competitive, our goal is to maintain our status in Division 1B, I see Antrim put up a good showing today, and it's probably going to be a shoot out between us.
“Offaly were very strong last night, but look, we need to get as many players back as we can, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks Cha will be back, Mark Kavanagh and PJ Scully as well.”
Galway are up next, and while Laois remain under strength, Kelly was keen to point out to those handed a jersey that it was their chance to stake their claim for a permanent spot in the team. “What we've said to the lads is that whoever is getting a jersey now, it's an opportunity to keep it, and that's the way they have to look at it. Are we happy with the performance? Probably 75% of it, we still have lots to work on”
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