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Meredith back on Laois panel

FIVE years ago he sprung to national attention with a hat-trick of goals in a Leinster minor final. Now, belatedly, Conor Meredith has a chance to prove his credentials as a Laois senior footballer.

The former Aussie Football League recruit has been called up to the Laois squad after spending much of the past four years overseas, including a two-year stint as a rookie Aussie Rules footballer with North Melbourne.

Meredith's return, coupled with that of Donie Kingston after his 12-month self-imposed sabbatical, constitutes a double boost for manager Justin McNulty as he seeks to add greater potency to the Laois attack in 2013.

"The more the merrier - they are great additions to the squad," Laois selector John Mulligan told the Evening Herald.

"The more players you have to pick from, the better the squad will be and - eventually - the better the team. You can't beat competition."

Prospects are certainly looking up for Laois compared to the scenario that greeted McNulty & Co last May, at which point they'd just been dumped out of the Leinster championship by Longford, coming immediately after top-flight relegation from the Allianz League.

A rollercoaster season was subsequently turned around by a 'back-door' run that saw them win four qualifier matches, most notably against Meath, before running All-Ireland holders Dublin to three points at the quarter-final stage.

However, for all their defensive improvements last summer, it was patently apparent that Laois would require a greater cutting edge to take the next step forward.

In this context, the return of former underage prodigy Kingston and the call-up for Meredith has the obvious potential to bolster Laois's attacking potential.

Meredith is best remembered for his three-goal salvo in the 2007 Leinster MFC final, helping Laois to a 3-8 to 1-12 victory over Carlow.

By November of the following year, he was signing a two-year international rookie contract with North Melbourne - but he was released by the Kangaroos when that contract expired in 2010.

Meredith continued to spend some time overseas but he was back home for most of this year's Laois SFC and helped his club, O'Dempsey's, to reach the semi-finals, eventually losing to Arles-Kilcruise.

According to one club insider, the former minor star had a "major say" in their championship progress. Mulligan was more circumspect but added: "He has great potential, in fairness to the chap."

Meredith could be an option for a variety of positions, including half-back and midfield, although wing-forward is considered his most likely haunt.

All of the more seasoned Laois campaigners, including elder statesman Pádraig Clancy, have recommitted for next season.

Corner-back Cahir Healy, who did some a fine man-marking job on Bernard Brogan last August, can also look forward to less logistical headaches as he is now teaching in Emo, having moved back from similar employment in England.