LAOIS boss Liam Kearns will be boosted by the badly-needed return of Tom Kelly to shore up their crocked defence for Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup final against Dublin.
Rock-solid backs have been the cornerstone of the O’Moore county in recent seasons but ever since Kearns took over it has been a disaster area. “We’ve 12 defenders on the panel but six of them are injured,” Kearns revealed.
He was also without Kelly last weekend because the former All Star was on his stag weekend but he is expected to make a timely return this week for the match in Tullamore.
Laois had home advantage but Portlaoise is unavailable because of floodlight installation and it was feared Portarlington could not deal with the expected crowd.
Dual star Darren Rooney had only returned from Australia last Friday but Kearns had to call him into action before half-time to bolster a very inexperienced defence in their one-point defeat of Offaly.
Kearns’ defensive problems right now are compounded by the injury absences of Joe Higgins, Pádraig McMahon and Aidan Fennelly.
“It is incredible that we’d only six fit backs for the last two weeks,” Kearns admitted. “We ended up bringing in Bruno McCormack at wing-back last Sunday who’d played full-forward in the two previous matches.”
The fact that Dublin will be without Alan Brogan and Shane Ryan, both on the All Star trip, will give Laois some breathing space. And up front, where Barry Brennan is doubtful after a hamstring strain last Sunday, they are boosted by attacker Ross Munnelly’s commitment to playing, even though, as a replacement All Star, he will just have come off a plane from Dubai.
Dublin are hopeful that Kevin Bonner, Darren Magee and David O’Callaghan will all be available this weekend.
So the Laois backs will still have to contend with a strong Dublin attack including 19-year-old newcomer Dermot Connolly who has scored 1-13 in their last three games.
Kearns admitted that having an O’Byrne Cup final so close to the start of the League - in which Laois face Westmeath in their Division 1B opener - is not ideal.
But there is no doubt that he is still relishing a chance to run the rule over Dublin so early in the season.
“It’s been good to see as many teams as possible and to see what the Leinster rivalry is all about this early in the season,” he said.
Filed under: Laois Football