Laois senior footballers will be without corner-forward David Conway for this weekend’s game against Dublin after the Arles-Kilcruise attacker picked up a hamstring injury in training.
Manager Justin McNulty confirmed Conway will be out for the next ‘two to three weeks’ with the injury, and it is a significant blow to Laois’ chances against the Dubs this weekend after the impact Conway has made in his debut season. He has scored a total of seven points in his first two leagues games, but the manner of his play has drawn plaudits from across the board.
While Conway’s absence will be sorely missed in attack, the Laois defence has been given a boost with the news that Graiguecullen’s Mark Timmons has returned to the panel for the coming season, having initially opted out late last year. Stradbally duo Conor Delaney and Darren Maher have left the panel, although McNulty did admit the door will remain open for players showing form at club level.
The team were finalising their preparations over the weekend, but defeat to Offaly in a practice match on Saturday night will have been something of a reality check for all involved after the win over Donegal in round two. While Laois fielded a number of players who have not been first choice up to now, there is still reason enough to be concerned in losing to a team which has languished in the doldrums for the last couple of years.
There was also a slight injury concern from the game when Peter O’Leary was forced off early through injury, but that was just precautionary and he is expected to be fit to face Dublin on Saturday night. If not, then Brian Mulligan will likely deputise .
Looking ahead to the game, Justin McNulty admitted he was excited about the prospect of taking on the reigning All-Ireland champions. “We are really looking forward to the game, it’s an honour to welcome the All-Ireland champions to O’Moore Park and it’s fantastic for the loyal Laois supporters, and for the kids as well to see the All-Ireland champions here this weekend and previous All-Ireland champions (Cork) here the week after.”
Having performed so well against Donegal in Letterkenny, the three week break between games has probably come at the wrong time for Laois, as they would have welcomed the opportunity to build on the win as soon as possible.
While McNulty admits it’s not ideal, he does admit that games like the one against Offaly serve their purpose too. “It is what it is (the break), we had a match on Saturday night and Offaly gave us a lesson, so we know we’re not where we need to be yet, and we have to build on the performance against Donegal.”
While the win over Donegal seems a long time ago now, the manager admits the importance of it still lingers on. “The win against Donegal has given the lads a confidence boost. It was a test of character of the group after the way they played against Mayo, and to recover and show the resilience and give a performance like they did was great,
“The work rate against Donegal was phenomenal and we have to step it up again. Dublin are riding on the crest of a wave and they have taken preparation to a whole new stratosphere, and they are pioneers of that new level.”
That is the level Laois aspire to reach, and how close they are to reaching it will become clear this Saturday night.