independent

Sunday 17 December 2017

A chance for a major scalp

But Laois still dangerous

Wicklow manager Johnny Magee says he’s “quietly confident” of getting his first championship win after three years at the helm in the Garden county
Wicklow manager Johnny Magee says he’s “quietly confident” of getting his first championship win after three years at the helm in the Garden county

Conor Hatton

The much anticipated showdown between Wicklow and Laois in Joule Park Aughrim is only a matter of days away and it is a clash that both players and management and eagerly looking forward to according to head man Johnny Magee.

It's last chance saloon for both sides but you could argue that most of the pressure will be on Laois as an exit in the first round of the championship to Wicklow would be seen as a major disappointment to the O'Moore men.

Wicklow seem well positioned to spring from the long grass and cause an upset as they followed up a narrow Leinster Championship defeat to Louth by beating a Carlow side, experiencing a recent renaissance, in a challenge game over the weekend while Laois come in on the back of a 14-point thumping by Kildare.

Magee says that the mood in the camp is confident ahead of the game but that his side know that the scale of the task ahead of them is a big one.

"We are quietly confident heading into the game but for sure no one will underestimate that Laois are a top side.

"They may have lost badly in their last match but often a wounded animal is more dangerous and you can be sure there will be a backlash from them as they are a proud football county traditionally and have some top footballers in their side," he said.

"Our preparations have been good coming in.

"There have been no fresh injury concerns since the Louth game and touch wood that continues and the lads have trained really well since then and the intensity in training has been really high."

"It was good to get the win at the weekend as although it was a challenge game we beat a Carlow team that have showed that they are a really good side so it was a positive to be exposed to that intensity in the lead up to championship.

"Considering there was a five-week gap between the end of the league and the start of the championship and a three week gap till the Laois game it was a match we probably needed and gave some lads are real chance to stake a claim in the team and build confidence."

Having not won a championship game under Magee's tenure and considering it is Wicklow's first home championship game in three years it's probably fair to say this is something of an cup final type scenario for Wicklow.

The same could be said for their manager as, although Magee has been involved in the back end of All-Ireland championships as a player, to win on Saturday would certainly be a sweet one and silence some of his doubters.

"I'm not thinking of it from a personal point of view but it would be great for the players who have worked hard and taken a lot of flak from different quarters to get the win and silence some of their critics.

"It's going to take a monumental 70 minutes and more to get there though and all we can do is prepare them as well as possible so they will be ready for the challenge of Laois.

"We've obviously had a look at them and where they are strong but I think if we focus on our own game and take the performance against Louth up another notch then we'll be there or there abouts."

The showdown is clocked for 5pm this Saturday evening in Joule Park Aughrim.

Magee will hope his charges can muster up some magic and put the lid on a miserable year for Laois.

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