Cruciate blow for Maher as Laois injury worries mount
Laois have been dealt a massive injury setback ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland SHC round 1 qualifier clash with Dublin after scans confirmed cruciate knee ligament damage for Stephen 'Picky' Maher.
The free-scoring Clough-Ballacolla clubman was one of the stars of IT Carlow's march to an historic Fitzgibbon Cup final appearance this year, and was returning to form recently after recovering from a broken finger.
But Maher went down injured with 18 minutes left in last Sunday's one-point win over Carlow - and was seen hobbling on crutches after full-time.
Maher was scanned on Monday and after his worst fears were confirmed, the talented 24-year-old now faces a lengthy lay-off.
In another blow for manager Éamonn Kelly, it's been confirmed that captain Ross King has been handed a one-match ban after he was sent off against Carlow.
Dismissed King was dismissed in the 13th minute after an off-the-ball clash with Richard Coady. King has been reported for a 'striking with minimal force', an offence that carries a one-match suspension.
Cha Dwyer is out for another month with a hamstring injury and Willie Dunphy will miss out again after surgery on his hand recently.
That leaves Kelly, who's set to stay on as Laois boss irrespective of Saturday's result at Parnell Park, without seven players who have featured in this year's championship - Maher, King, Dwyer, Dunphy, Ben Conroy, Paddy Whelan and John Lennon, while Conor Phelan was another cruciate victim at the start of the season.
A lengthy list of absentees leaves Laois as massive underdogs ahead of their trip to the capital. "Dublin are odds-on favourites," said Kelly. "They have a far stronger panel to pick from than us."