HURLING

Scully and King the only injury doubts ahead of NHL opener with Kerry

Kerry missing five ahead of key game

Rory Delaney

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Rory Delaney

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rory@leinsterexpress.ie

Scully and King the only injury doubts ahead of NHL opener with Kerry

Ross King on the attack for Laois against NUI Galway.

Attacking duo Ross King and PJ Scully are the the only injury concerns for Laois this weekend, as they begin their NHL campaign against Kerry in Tralee.

Manager Eamonn Kelly confirmed to the Leinster Express that Scully is still struggling to completely shake off the quad muscle injury which affected him during last year's club championships. He had rested the injury over the winter, but it flared up again during the Walsh Cup.

King meanwhile has been suffering from cellulitis, and Kelly is hopeful that both will recover sufficiently to play a part in a crucial game this weekend.

Kelly is already without John Lennon, whose ankle injury will see him out of action for another five or six weeks, with Mark Kavanagh and Tom Delaney on the long-term absentees list with cruciate ligament injuries.

Kerry, meanwhile, have their own problems to contend with, as a they are reportedly missing five first-choice players for the game. In a press conference on Saturday, new Kerry manager Fintan O'Connor said that he would be without John Egan, Michael and Brendan O'Leary, Tommy Casey and Rory Horgan for the game.

Egan and the O'Leary brothers caused havoc against Laois last year, with the trio combining to score 1-11 from play between them in the league relegation playoff game in Tralee.

While they may be missing those players, Kerry are still expected to provide very stiff opposition on Sunday, and will probably enter the game as favourites, given the age profile of the Laois panel.

Laois will have to hit the ground running in NHL Division 1B, as their first two games are against Kerry and then, six days later, at home to Offaly. Both teams are likely to be in the relegation mix along with Laois, given the strength of the other three teams in the Division.

Changes to the relegation and promotion of teams in the league mean that the previous practice of the top team in Division 2A having to meet the loser of the relegation playoff in Division 1B is finished.

If Laois can finish outside the bottom two they are safe, but if they end up in fifth or sixth place, they will have just one last chance to maintain their Division 1B league status for 2018.