Laois minor hurling manager Tony Ryan has a number of injury concerns ahead of this Saturday’s Leinster MHC quarter final with Dublin, with his most pressing concern being the fitness of centre back and captain Darren Houlihan.
The Rathdowney Errill man injured his shoulder in a challenge game against Westmeath over the weekend, and the Laois management team must now wait and see if he can recover in time for the game. He had x-rays taken of the injury, and while nothing is broken, it is feared he has suffered ligament damage which could be serious enough to rule him out of the game.
Ryan has three other injury concerns to contend with also, and all three are in attack. Full forward Neil Foyle suffered a dead leg in training last week, Darren King has a hand injnury from the last day against Meath, while Tony Ryan has been ill all week. All three are expected to be fit enough to start the game, but their preparation for the visit of Dublin has been less than ideal.
Should Houlihan fail to recover in time there are a number of options available to Laois, with Paul Harding or Gearoid Gaughan, both unable to start the last day, coming into the half back line or Tony Ryan dropping back from centre forward. Either way, Laois manager Tony Ryan has indicated that there will be some changes from the Meath game.
Dublin will offer a huge step up from that game against the Royal county, as Laois will face a far more probing examination of their abilities than Meath could offer. This Laois panel have never beaten this Dublin team at underage level up through the grades, so they have their work cut out for them. The Dubs don’t come into the game in the best of form themselves, having slumped to a 10 point defeat to Wexford in the previous round.
If Laois are to be successful, they will be hoping Neil Foyle can recover from his dead leg and replicate his form from that last round. He hit 3-5 against Meath, 3-2 of which came from play, and if Laois get the right supply of ball into him he could do some damage. He won’t get it as easy as he did against Meath though, and the players around him will have to help spread the scoring burden and not make Foyle Laois’ only option in attack.
With the game being in O’Moore Park, it offers Laois fans the opportunity to go and see one of their teams play a home championship game. With the last game having gone head to head with the Leinster v Munster game, perhaos it wasn’t surprising that a relatively poor crowd followed the team to Navan. Manager Tony Ryan is hopeful of a better turn out this weekend though, “I’d be calling on all the clubs to come out and support the team. It’s a home championship game and the lads have put in a great effort this year, and deserve a bit of support.”
As for Houlihan, Ryan amitted it didn’t look good for his captain, “We think Darren has some ligament damage, and a week isn’t a long time to have to recover. He’s a loss to us, because he’s a man for the big days.”
It’s looking like Laois will have to plan without their captain. He’s undoubtedly a huge loss, but if he doesn’t make it, it gives another player the chance to come in and impress. Dublin will be favourites for the game, and to that end there is a certain lack of pressure on Laois. If they play to their strengths and start well, there’s no reason they can’t be planning for a Leinster semi-final come Saturday evening.
- Leinster Express