Thursday 23 March 2017

Kildare and Laois close to full strength as old friends set for battle

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

BOTH Laois and Kildare will be close to full strength ahead of their clash in Portlaoise on Saturday evening, but O'Moore boss Justin McNulty warned that "qualifier specialists" Kildare have the edge on his side in terms of experience.

Kildare confirmed yesterday that Ollie Lyons has shaken off the shoulder injury he sustained in the defeat to Dublin, while Laois's only concern is over Peter O'Leary's knee.

And having reached two All-Ireland quarter-finals and a semi-final via the back door in the last three years, McNulty knows the Lilies are in familiar territory.

"We understand that Kildare are qualifier specialists," he said. "They have reached All-Ireland quarter and semi-finals through the back door so they are seasoned in that regard, so that's something we have to tackle."

Saturday represents the first time lifelong friends McNulty and Kieran McGeeney will go head-to-head in the championship as managers, but the Laois boss insisted that the football should take centre stage.

"It's a unique situation in the GAA. Kieran is one of my best friends, we're very close and it's two clubmates who grew up together, played in the same county team and won an All-Ireland together. I suppose it adds a little intrigue and excitement to the fixture," he said.

"Obviously it's a local derby too but really it's all just a sideshow. It's a game of football and two teams who are going out to play to their potential is what this is all about."

McNulty agreed that Laois were disappointing against Dublin but hailed the character of his side to bounce back and overcome Tipperary, who had ended their interest in the championship last year.

"The Dublin game is irrelevant. We know we didn't perform, the players, the media know that but that's not what this is about, it's about the next day now," he said.

"I think the Tipp game helped a little bit in terms of our confidence, which was rock bottom after the Dublin game when guys knew they hadn't done themselves justice.

"But I think they showed massive character to come back from that and beat a Tipperary side that had beaten them last year. It gives us a little bit of confidence."

Irish Independent

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