Ross Munnelly in action against Carlow. Pic: Alf Harvey.
For the sixteenth year in a row, Ross Munnelly will board a team bus heading in search of glory with the Laois senior footballers.
It is a record which does not even come close to being matched on this panel, as one of the county's finest ever footballers shows no signs of slowing down, or losing his appetite.
His focus remains on helping Laois to win games, and that's exactly what he did the last time he was in a county jersey, with a brilliant performance against Carlow in the league final propelling Laois to the NFL Division 4 title.
The memories remain vivd, and the Arles-Kilcruise man noted the significance of the win, beyond just sealing a national league medal. “It was good to get back to Croke Park because I think it was a couple of years since we played there. It was good for the county to get so many supporters up there and leave Croke Park on a high, letting people remember the good days.
“With the way we played in the league final, people left proud of the team and looking forward to following us in the first round of the Leinster championship.”
That first round pits them against Wexford, in Wexford, never an easy place to go, and never an easy opposition for Laois. We have always competed well against them, but there is much reason for them to be confident as there is for Laois, and Munnelly was urgning caution from his team mates. “We probably don't know what to expect in the Leinster championship because Wexford were a Division 3 side and we haven't played against anyone of that caliber yet.
“Towards the start of my playing days, we probably beat Wexford more often and then towards the middle they got on top with Jason Ryan involved and so on.
“But a lot of the players that I played against probably aren't there anymore. But no more than ourselves, they are probably approaching the Leinster championship starting at home and wanting to beat Laois.
“At the start of this year, it was a Division 4 team playing a Division 3 team so we will have to see how we fare.”
The advent of a new year brings new competition for places, and it seems inevitable there will be debutants in the coming weeks. It is a scenario Munnelly loves to see. “I was lucky, when I started off, someone threw me in at the deep end and gave me a chance. No doubt this summer, that opportunity will fall in a young Laois player, or players, laps.
“So when they get thrown that opportunity they take it with both hands and hopefully we will see that and we will have players coming through who will drive this Laois team forward.
“Over the last couple of years when you go in at pre-season, you notice these guys who are coming in and they are very well conditioned.
“So there is obviously good work going on at juvenile level. A lot of them are playing football at colleges, freshers and Sigerson level. So that is really educating players on different styles and how they play the game. So they are adding to the group and driving me on the whole time.”
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