Friday 15 November 2019

Relegation hasn't been mentioned in Laois, insists Shiel

Laois U21 footballer Tom Shiel is presented with the EirGrid Player of the Month for February by Rosemary Steen, Director of Public Affairs at EirGrid
Laois U21 footballer Tom Shiel is presented with the EirGrid Player of the Month for February by Rosemary Steen, Director of Public Affairs at EirGrid
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When Tom Shiel was drafted back into the Laois squad after the county's U-21 campaign has ended, he didn't sense any panic.

Two defeats in their first two games meant things looked ominous for the midlanders in an ultra-competitive NFL Division 2 as Shiel and a handful of other U-21s came back into Tomas O Flatharta's set-up.

They have gradually turned the corner and while their most recent pair of league games have yielded three points, no one is getting carried away now.

A surprise win over Roscommon was followed by a draw away against Meath on Saturday, but it's the manner of that point earned in Navan that will encourage Laois supporters.

Seven points down early in the second half, they looked dead and buried with Mick O'Dowd's Meath seemingly in control.

However, a dramatic eight-point swing saw them take the lead late in the game only for the O'Moore men to be pegged back at the death. Laois still occupy one of the two relegation places and are still looking over their shoulder but Shiel insists there are positives to take from the last couple of weeks.

"I don't know how the mood was in the camp early in the league but confidence was high after the Roscommon game," said the IT Carlow student.

"Going to Meath was always going to be tough. And while a lot of lads were disappointed we didn't see out the game and get the win and the points, we still managed an eight-point turnaround which was good.

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"We're second from bottom now so there is still work to be done and we'll just have to take it one game at a time.

"But relegation hasn't been mentioned by anyone in the dressing room so we'll just keep going and working away."

Laois boss O Flatharta introduced Shiel as a sub in Navan last Saturday night but it wasn't the 19-year old's first appearance for the county.

Delighted

He featured in Laois' qualifier win over Clare under Justin McNulty in 2013 as a 17-year-old. And after concentrating on playing with the county minors last year he's delighted to be back in the senior squad.

His scoring exploits in the U-21 campaign saw Shiel named the EirGrid Player of the Month for February after starring in the Laois win over Wexford.

However, their season came to a halt at the hands of a dominant Dublin side who are out to defend their Leinster and All-Ireland titles.

"Dublin are very strong," said the Stradbally man. "I think they had seven of last year's All-Ireland winning side still playing and a lot of them have played senior too.

"We went ahead in the second half and then kicked three bad wides and our confidence went and they just took off from there.

"Their conditioning is amazing. They play a running game that is very hard to play against and they have some great footballers. I haven't seen too many of the other teams but I think they'll go well again in Leinster at least. They'll be very hard to stop."

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