CARLOW v LAOIS
Netwatch Cullen Pk, Tomorrow 3.30
IT may be a qualifier group match in name, but the reality is so much more - especially for Laois and their progressive manager, Seamus Plunkett.
"This is a knockout championship match at this stage. We have to win it. This is knockout hurling for Laois from here on in. It's good in a sense that we have that but we would need to improve from last Sunday," admits the man universally known as Cheddar.
He is referring to last weekend's painful 5-17 to 3-22 defeat in Ballycastle where Laois - most people's favourites to top the qualifying group - were overhauled by an injury-time Antrim penalty.
On the same afternoon, Carlow came up two points short of Westmeath despite a late surge in Mullingar, and it means do-or-die for both teams here ahead of the final round in a fortnight.
Plunkett rejects the notion that losing to Antrim was a "shocker", given the difficulty of winning in Ballycastle and the fact that, historically, there's nothing between the two counties.
But he accepts that failure to finish in the top two, and thus advance to a Leinster quarter-final, would be a setback for the Laois project.
"Ah there would be huge consequences," he admits. "Huge consequences for everybody I suppose.
"Everybody has worked so hard to try and get us into a competitive situation and I think we're in that at the minute ... it's a huge game for us but I suppose for the development of hurling in Laois, it's great that your flagship team would do well.
"It's incredibly important; but what's more important is what's going to be happening at the development level and at underage and at minor, and what assistance the likes of Laois are going to get in developing that," he continued.
"The senior team has to do well and I think, given time, the consequences of having good development structures in the county are much, much more important. But to go back to your question, the match (in Carlow) is very, very important for this group of players. Everybody has invested a huge amount of time in this and a huge amount of their lives."
ODDS: Carlow 10/3, Draw 11/1, Laois 1/4
LEINSTER SHC QUALIFYING GROUP