Laois boss McNulty opts for the tried and trusted

Laois manager Justin McNulty has, unsurprisingly, stuck with the same 15 players who started last week’s qualifier defeat of Meath for this Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against reigning champions Dublin at Croke Park.

The Armagh man has made a handful of positional changes, however, with Gary Walsh, Billy Sheehan and Damien O’Connor all playing musical chairs around the forward line. How much that matters come throw-in remains to be seen.

Laois have discovered what appears to be their best team during the run through the back door and will once again present a strong spine of physical and capable ball players for their second meeting with the Dubs in two years.

Kevin Meaney will wear the number three jersey while John O’Loughlin will again be handed a mostly defensive brief at centre-back. The midfield has been the side’s best performing line and will again feature Brendan Quigley and Colm Begley.

Padraic Clancy, the sole survivor from the side that last defeated Dublin in the championship in the 2003 Leinster semi-final, is stationed at full-forward but will be seen further back the field where he did most of his damage against Meath.

With Sheehan expected to again hover around the middle third, Dublin can expect a serious examination of their ball-winning credentials at the very least. Manager Pat Gilroy will name his side this morning.

The 1995 All-Ireland winner is confident Alan Brogan will be fit for the fray. The former captain left the field during the first-half of the Leinster final defeat against Meath with a groin injury but is believed to have made a good recovery.

Diarmuid Connolly, sent off against Wexford and subsequently suspended for that provincial decider, will again be available. Gilroy catered for his absence last time by naming midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley at 14 and playing him in closer to the engine room.

Most of the other quarter-finalists, including Cork and Kerry, are expected to name their starting sides today.

Meanwhile former Dublin hurling manager Marty Morris says it would be a case of reverting to the “three-year merry-go-round” if Anthony Daly is not installed as Dubs hurling boss for a fifth term.

In the wake of his side’s relegation to Division IB and their disastrous championship campaign which included a landslide defeat by Kilkenny followed by a loss to Clare, considerable speculation has surrounded Daly’s future.

Dublin Board chairman Andy Kettle has said he expected to meet Daly in the near future to discuss whether theClareman wishes to remain at the helm for another year.

And Morris says he feels it would be a retrograde step for Dublin if the Clarecastle man decided to call time on his link with the Dubs.

“Of course, this year was a bit of a disaster for Dublin hurling,” said Morris, who managed the Dubs to a notable Walsh Cup final success over Kilkenny in 2003.

“Last year, the quality of Dublin’s play was mesmerising, and understandably we were expecting great things for this year after winning the League and putting up a great performance against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final. The only way that 2011 could have been bettered would have been if we had won the Leinster title and reached the All-Ireland final.”

Laois (SF v Dublin): E Culliton; C Healy, K Meaney, P O’Leary; D Strong, J O’Loughlin, C Boyle; B Quigley, C Begley; R Munnelly, G Walsh, D O’Connor; B Sheehan, P Clancy, C Kelly.

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