Down well aware of Laois threat says Sheehan

By Shaun Casey

HAMMERINGS can slice up wounds that take a long time to heal and as Down return to Laois Hire O’Moore Park this weekend, the drubbing they received at the hands of Laois, at the very same venue last season, will surely still be fresh in their minds.

Ronan Sheehan’s men face the Leinster side in the opening round of their Division 2A league campaign and the last time the sides crossed swords, just under nine months ago, the O’Moore County recorded a handsome 31-point victory.

Laois have been competing at the top tier of the league since 2013 but lost their place last season when they lost all five of their outings. They are, however, immediate favourites to make a swift return to Division 1B.

“No doubt the toughest game is the first game,” said Sheehan, look ahead to this weekend’s challenge.

“Laois have probably been in Division One of the NHL for the last number years so they’re clear favourites to be promoted this year, clear favourites to win the league.

“We played them in the Joe McDonagh Cup last year and they gave us an awful trimming down there, now we didn’t play well on the day in question, but it did also show that Laois, at that stage, were a good step ahead of us.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult. We’ll be hoping to go down there and give a good performance and that would set us up well for the league and hopefully build on that heading into the Kerry game.”

The learnings from last season were aplenty, but there was still the odd positive to take from that Joe McDonagh Cup outing. Had Down taken their chances, it wouldn’t have changed the result, but it would have tidied up the scoreboard a little.

“The one thing that was encouraging was that even though we didn’t perform well, and we didn’t take our chances, on the day in question we still created 40 chances, but we had something like 18 or 19 wides,” explained the Mourne boss.

“That wouldn’t have changed the ultimate result of the game, but it would have changed the nature of the result, so we’d be hoping to keep things a lot tighter this time around but also take our chances as well.”

Not only that, but Down are travelling south with a much stronger squad this time around.

Caolan Taggart was unavailable, John McManus, Darragh Mallon and Matt Conlon all went off injured while Paul Sheehan has reversed his decision to retire.

“We’re probably travelling down there with a lot stronger team now in terms of both the Sands (Eoghan and Daithi) being back available, CT (Caolan Taggart) is available, John McManus is available, and Donal Hughes is back.

“Matt Conlon is another man who is back, he got injured during that game as well.

“We’re definitely in a stronger position in terms of personnel, Danny Toner as well, so we’d be expecting to put in a better performance than we did last year.”

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