Victory vital for Kingdom

McDonagh Cup Round 2: Kerry v Laois, Sunday May 13, Austin Stack Park, 3pm

Damian Stack

What use is it to exceed expectations if you're still left with nothing to show for it?

That's the question Kerry will be asking themselves this week. They came a lot closer to downing Carlow in Dr Cullen Park than many expected. It's a game they easily could have won and, yet, for all the goodwill that fine performance engendered they still find themselves in a sticky situation with Laois coming to town this weekend.

It probably would have suited the Kingdom better had Eamonn Kelly's charges won their opening round fixture against Westmeath. Instead Laois will come calling with a hunger and a desire (and a necessity for points).

In that opening round game observers felt that it was Westmeath who showed the greater desire. That will sting Kelly and it will sting his players, who went into the competition as bookmakers' favourites. We shouldn't expect a repeat performance. They'll be better next weekend than they were last.

Kerry, meanwhile, will be equally desirous of points. That win by Westmeath over Laois means that if Kerry want to avoid one of the bottom two spots they've got to keep pace with Michael Ryan's side (who host Meath this weekend). Just one weekend in and the pressure is well and truly on for this Kerry team.

This is where we're going to find out what these young guys are made of. Given how well they did in Dr Cullen Park the early signs are good. Carlow is no easy place to go and yet they performed admirably, despite losing Shane Nolan late on following a fitness test with a hamstring tear.

There's hope the Crotta maestro can return to the fold for this weekend. There are similar hopes that Jordan Conway (ankle strain) will be available for selection.

Kerry could do with all hands on deck for this one. They will be up against it in a major way, just as they were last weekend, but just like last weekend they're capable of getting a result if they perform to their best.

They'll feel they owe Laois one following a pair of defeats last season (one in a relegation play-off in Portaloise and another in Austin Stack Park in the Leinster round robin).

The odds are against it, Laois are the more seasoned side and have another season of Division 1B hurling behind them. Don't rule out a Kerry win, however.

Verdict: Laois