Leinster SHC quarter-finals: Ambitions of Leinster pretenders likely to be dented
Sean Moran previews Laois v Offaly and Westmeath v Wexford
Laois manager Seamus Plunkett.
Laois v Offaly, Portlaoise, 3.30pm
If the intention was to deflect the spotlight from his players, Séamus Plunkett’s temporary resignation worked a treat. There has been little focus on the match as a result. Within Offaly there has been nervous speculation about the potentially galvanic effects of an in-house squabble but that overlooks the fact that Laois hadn’t exactly been having a carefree run up until that, with a tight win over Westmeath required to get them over the line in the preliminary group.
This season has gone badly for Laois since they lost to Offaly in the league – a reversal of what happened last year when Plunkett’s team reached the league quarter-finals – but they have been targeting this match and a first win in the fixture for 43 years. Offaly look livelier this year and enjoyed a better league campaign. They have sufficient firepower in Shane Dooley and Brian Carroll to exert pressure on their cross-border rivals. Laois have been a good championship side since Plunkett took over but Offaly are forewarned about this and can survive into the semi-finals.
Westmeath v Wexford, Mullingar, 3.30pm
There’s a fairly scarce competitive history between this pair and what matches there have been have gone decisively in Wexford’s favour, most recently a 16-point win in the 2012 qualifiers in Wexford Park. More will be expected from Westmeath this weekend after an excellent qualifying group campaign that saw them replace Antrim as the championship quarter-finalists.
Michael Ryan has got good performances from the team but suspension rules out Robbie Greville and impressive forward Niall O’Brien and it was worrying that some of the major contributors to the good run in the group were relatively quiet in the final match against Laois.Wexford are under pressure after their most significant championship campaign in seven years has created expectation and manager Liam Dunne acknowledged as much during the week.
They have strong performers throughout the team but a verdict on whether they cohere as an improved unit awaits more severe tests than this, which won’t be long coming as the winners play Kilkenny.
Wexford look too well equipped not to win this comfortably.