THE SLOW BURN GAA football championship, Cork excluded as they can never be accused of under-performing in June, is set to continue this weekend with the only tough call coming on Saturday evening in Tullamore as Kieran McGeeney’s rejuvenated Kildare face Seán Dempsey’s promising Laois.
Dempsey has kept faith in the side that showed glimpses of a new and fruitful era in an unsure defeat of Louth recently but established defenders Joe Higgins and Tom Kelly could both make a substantial impact off the bench.
For now, championship debutants the last day, Rory Stapleton at corner back and the impressive Ger Reddin at centre back, are retained.
A notable aspect of the new Laois style is the roaming brief handed to Brendan Quigley. A midfielder by trade, he swept in front of the half-back line against Louth but is named again at wing forward.
A long held view of Laois football is they are a county packed full of skilful, yet lightweight footballers can now be dismissed.
Darren Rooney is joined in the half-back line by the powerful John O’Loughlin, while teenager Donie Kingston brings essential steel to the full-forward line to offset the footballing talent of MJ Tierney and Ross Munnelly. Centre forward Bruno McCormack is another to be respected in the contact stakes.
Kildare have been impressive this summer with competent victories over Offaly and Wexford. McGeeney is due to release a team tonight after training, but all their injury concerns have subsided so a decision needs to be made regarding the inclusion of Mikey Conway and Kevin O’Neill.
Mick Foley is expected to retain the fullback slot but Conway will push hard to come back into the half-back line.
Ever the innovators, McGeeney and his assistants Paul Grimley and Niall Carew, were disappointed with the free count against them in the Wexford game but instead of complaining they invited the referee from that match, Meath man Cormac Reilly, to adjudicate in a training game so they could learn from their mistakes.
Their reaction to the refereeing on Saturday night should prove interesting after a number of contrasting displays by officials in the championship to date.
- GAVIN CUMMISKEY, Irish Times