‘You could see the young lads perking up’: Laois v Louth league clash moved to Croke Park

LOUTH FORWARD JIM McEneaney reckons his side have been given an added incentive ahead of their Division 3 opener against Longford on Sunday week, with news of their round two clash with Laois being fixed for Croke Park.

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Laois had been due to host the game at O’Moore Park, but have lost home advantage after failing to comply with training guidelines set during last year’s ‘club-only’ month of April.

The all-Leinster affair – which is to throw-in at 3pm – is to proceed before Dublin ladies’ league opener against Donegal (5pm) and the Boys in Blue’s encounter with Connacht champions Galway (7pm). 

Louth last featured at HQ in losing the 2017 third tier final to Tipperary and have since experienced relegation, two managerial changes and a large turnover of players.

However, under new boss Wayne Kierans, there is a freshness to their panel and McEneaney says the chance to perform on the first part of the 2 February triple-header will benefit the Reds.

“We have a lot of 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds and they would have grown up dreaming of playing with Louth at Croke Park; lads have that ambition to play at Croke Park,” he told The42.

“A few fellas mentioned that the Laois game might be played there and you could see the young lads perking up, reacting differently at the thought. There was almost a difference in their voices…

“It is an incentive and probably an incentive to get off to a good start against Longford, too.” 

Nevertheless, despite Laois having to concede home advantage, McEneaney feels both sides will relish the opportunity of featuring at the Jones’ Road venue.

“Looking towards the championship, it might be no harm that both teams get a run-out at Croke Park.

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“We’ve a good record in Portlaoise, it’s a big field and has a good surface, like Croke Park, so we should be fine in that sense.”

Following a dismal 2018 season, which culminated in the departure of manager Pete McGrath, Louth have started the new year positively, losing just one of their three O’Byrne Cup fixtures, narrowly missing out on a semi-final place.

While Ciarán Byrne (ankle) and Conor Grimes (knee) are long-term absentees, McEneaney says they’re largely injury free and looking forward to getting underway.

Louth haven’t stayed in a division since 2013, with relegations in 2014, 2015 and 2018 accompanying back-to-back promotions in between.

But, he insists, expectations are set higher than just settling for safety this time around.

“Division 3 will be very tight and a lot will depend on how the first couple of games go. We’ll be taking it in segments and trying to win the first two games, against Longford and Laois, like we did in 2017.

“There are a lot of Leinster teams in the division and even Down are neighbours so there will be a bite to the games, especially against the other Leinster teams as we try to see where we are in the pecking order.

“If our ‘yoyo’ run continues and we get promoted, great, but we definitely don’t want to go down. We’ll just be going into every game trying to win.”

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