Saturday, Leitrim v Laois, Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon, 7.00 (Ref: Rory Hickey, Clare)
Latest from the medics and management… You can question their quality and their depth but you cannot question their courage and their honesty after last week’s famous win. Never before had they won a qualifier, and arguably never had they entered the qualifiers lower on confidence after being taken apart and humiliated by Mayo and having struggled in the basement of the league. Little wonder then that the same group that started against Wicklow all retain their places. Deservedly so because what they did there was impressive. As for tactics, their management have said this is bonus territory so they may simply go toe-to-toe across the park in an orthodox gameplan, look for intensity at the back to bridge the gap and hope for the best from there on in.
Leitrim: C McCrann; P Maguire, F McMorrow, A Wynne; C Clarke, E Williams, D Beck; D Sweeney, S Moran; P McGowan, E Mulligan, P Brennan; R Cox, J Glancy, K Conlon
In truth what was said about Leitrim can also apply to Laois, granted at a higher level, because under Justin McNulty they have been spineless at times. But last weekend against Monaghan they looked to finally buy into his defensive policy while Brendan Quigley in particular looked the player some said he might become four year’s ago. He was towering, fast and could finish too. Thus, just like their opponents, all 15 are rewarded with the same jerseys. MJ Tierney is the most high profile of the substitutes on either side.
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Meaney, J Kavanagh; D Strong, J O’Loughlin, C Boyle; B Quigley, C Begley; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, G Walsh; D O’Connor, P Clancy, C Kelly
Checking the odds… Laois 2-9, Leitrim 9-2 with the draw at 15-2 although the handicap of four points and James Glancy for an anytime goal at 5-1 may well be more appealing.
Clues from the form guide… Absolutely none. Both sides had poor leagues (granted there’s no shame in being relegated from Division One, which is far better than struggling in Division Four…), both sides had bad results in their provincial openers (granted, while Leitrim’s margin of defeat was far greater, so too was the quality of the opposition) and both sides will be surprised to be in with a chance of making the last 12 with the favorable draw of playing probably Meath there to look forward to. Even the statistics are all over the place. Five times this league Laois failed to kick more than 10 points in a game, they scored 1-10 against Carlow, combined for 0-31 in last year’s championship outings again Longford, Dublin and Kildare but then come along and take Monaghan for 2-12. The same applies to Leitrim as the 0-13 against Wicklow was their most productive championship day since May 2009.
The game breakers are… James Glancy for Leitrim. Emlyn Mulligan may be the play-maker and score more because of his brilliant dead-ball taking but if there’s to be an upset Glancy needs to see a lot of good quality ball come his way in the air and if that happens he has the ability to take Kevin Meaney apart. He’s strong, can win his own ball and crucially he can finish. But it’s further out that Laois will hope to foil that plan. John O’Loughlin, Colm Belgey and Brendan Quigley on form should take over in the middle and control the supply of ball that makes it in to both forward lines.
Gazing into the crystal ball… Those three will take over if their heads are in the right place and if they can combine performances there with the level of attacking play they brought to the Monaghan game, then Laois won’t be stopped. If the two midfielders in particular can get clean possession and get on the front foot, they aren’t shy in getting forward with pace and power. That will overload the Leitrim defence, creating overlaps and last weekend Ross Munnelly had time and Damien O’Connor and Colm Kelly had space to do damage. There’ll be plenty of openings, they won’t be as wasteful in front of the posts as Wicklow and even in a ground where they are always relatively competitive, it’s too much to ask Mulligan and Glancy to keep Leitrim within touching distance.
Verdict… Laois by five.