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Laois call on Leinster to make Dubs play away

DUBLIN footballers will launch the defence of their Leinster and All-Ireland crowns against either Wicklow or Laois next summer - but their potential opponents have already raised the spectre of switching the game to a provincial venue.

Laois officials have indicated that the Leinster Council should consider playing that quarter-final in Portlaoise in the event that their county advances.

The alternative, Dublin versus Wicklow, would definitely be fixed for Croke Park given the limited capacity of Aughrim, whereas O'Moore Park currently has a capacity of over 20,000 with plans to increase it by another couple of thousand.

The most likely scenario is that money will ultimately talk and that Jim Gavin's all-conquering Blues will open their campaign on familiar Croker soil, as they have done every summer since their last foray outside the capital, away to Longford in 2006.

Either way, last night's draw has been kind to the Dubs, whose most high-profile Leinster foes, Meath and Kildare, are on the other side of the draw.

Mouthwatering

The same applies to Anthony Daly's Dublin hurlers, who avoided their heavyweight rivals from Kilkenny and Galway. As Leinster champions, Dublin were already guaranteed a bye to the semi-finals, and there they will meet either the winners of a five-team qualifying group or, more likely, Wexford.

A mouthwatering semi-final between Galway and Kilkenny is on the cards, presuming they overcome the qualifying group runners-up and Offaly respectively.

The Munster SHC draw, meanwhile, threw up a host of intriguing fixtures, top of the list being a potential All-Ireland final repeat - if Cork can overcome Waterford to set up a semi-final date with newly crowned champions Clare.

On the football front, Dublin will be hotly fancied to reach a fourth consecutive Leinster final: presuming they overcome either Wicklow or Laois, they would face Longford, Offaly or Wexford at the semi-final stage.

But Laois have already spelled out their interest in hosting the All-Ireland champions - if they can survive that Wicklow banana skin.

Laois PRO Brian Allen told The Herald: "We didn't get a chance to discuss the draw yet, but my first reaction is we think Dublin shouldn't be guaranteed all their games in Dublin. If there is a ground capable of taking such a fixture, it should be looked at by the Leinster Council."

The province's CCC will propose dates and venues to a full council meeting on November 6, but Leinster chairman Martin Skelly was non-committal last night.

"There is nothing set in stone but we have to look at what serves the province best," said Skelly. "While we would be open to all options, we have to examine all aspects which include ground capacity, match income and a suitable setting for all our games."

HURLING

LEINSTER SHC

Qualifying Group: Antrim, Carlow, Laois, London, Westmeath. Quarter-finals: Group winners v Wexford; Group runners-up v Galway; Kilkenny v Offaly. Semi-finals: Group winners/Wexford v Dublin; Group runners-up/Galway v Kilkenny/Offaly.

MUNSTER SHC

Quarter-final: Waterford v Cork. Semi-finals: Tipperary v Limerick; Waterford/Cork v Clare.

FOOTBALL

MUNSTER SFC

Quarter-finals: Tipperary v Limerick; Clare v Waterford. Semi-finals: Cork v Tipperary/Limerick; Kerry v Clare/Waterford.

CONNACHT SFC

Preliminary Round: New York v Mayo. Quarter-finals: London v Galway; Roscommon v Leitrim. Semi-finals: London/Galway v Sligo; New York/Mayo v Roscommon/Leitrim.

ULSTER SFC

Preliminary round: Tyrone v Down. Quarter-finals: Fermanagh v Antrim; Derry v Donegal; Armagh v Cavan; Monaghan v Tyrone/Down. Semi-finals: Fermanagh/Antrim v Derry/Donegal; Armagh/Cavan v Monaghan/Tyrone/Down.

LEINSTER SFC

1st round: Wicklow v Laois; Longford v Offaly; Westmeath v Louth. Quarter-finals: Wicklow/Laois v Dublin; Longford/Offaly v Wexford; Westmeath/Louth v Kildare; Carlow v Meath. Semi-finals: Wicklow/Laois/Dublin v Longford/Offaly/Wexford; Westmeath/Louth/ Kildare v Carlow/Meath.


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