Mernagh gets nod for Carlow in Leinster opener

Carlow have one championship debutant for Sunday’s Leinster SFC first-round meeting with Westmeath at Cusack Park in Mullingar (3.30pm).

Shane Mernagh is rewarded for an impressive league campaign for Anthony Rainbow’s side and is named at full-back. In all, the side features 12 of the team which started against Laois in the opening round of last year’s qualifiers, a four-point defeat, while a 13th, Derek Hayden, came on as a sub in that game. Corner-back Barry-John Molloy makes his first championship start for the Dolmen County, having appeared off the substitutes’ bench last year.

Antrim have left a vacancy at corner-forward for their Leinster hurling first-round clash with Laois at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise tomorrow evening (7pm).

While the side is otherwise unchanged, manager Kevin Ryan has opted against naming somebody at number 15.

The role was filled by Stephen Beattie in the preliminary round win over Westmeath, but he is ruled out through illness. Chris McGuinness replaced Beattie in the last game before being himself replaced by Karl Stewart, who was sent off and is suspended.

Laois will field the same 15 players who started the county’s 3-14 to 1-9 win over Westmeath in their last league game, securing promotion from Division 2A to 1B. Cahir Healy and Joe Fitzpatrick switch positions, however, Healy named at right half-back while Fitzpatrick partners James Walsh at midfield.

CARLOW (SF v Westmeath): T O’Reily (Tinryland); C Lawler (Palatine), S Mernagh (Kildavin/Clonegal), BJ Molloy (Rathvilly); K Nolan (Fighting Cocks), S Redmond (Tinryland), B Kavanagh (Éire Óg); D Foley (Kilbride), J Murphy (Grange); Brian Murphy (Rathvilly), Brendan Murphy (Rathvilly), E Ruth (Éire Óg); S Gannon (Éire Óg), P Reid (Palatine), D Hayden (Éire Óg). Subs: C Kearney (Palatine), J O’Donoghue (Rathvilly), M Doyle (Naomh Eoin), T Bolger (Rathvilly), A Kelly (Rathvilly), C Moran (Palatine), C Murphy (Clonmore), D St Ledger (Kildavin/Clonegal), J Kennedy (St Patrick’s), J Kane (Palatine), A O’Brien (Naomh Eoin).

LAOIS (SH v Antrim): E Reilly (St Lazarian’s, Abbeyleix); B Stapleton (Borris-in-Ossory Kilcotton), B Campion (Rathdowney-Errill), JA Delaney (Clough Ballacolla); C Healy (Portlaoise), M Whelan (Borris-in-Ossory Kilcotton), G Burke (Camross); J Fitzpatrick (Rathdowney-Errill), J Walsh (Ballinakill); S Maher (Clough Ballacolla), Z Keenan (Camross), W Hyland (Clough Ballacolla); J Brophy (The Harps), T Fitzgerald (Portlaoise), B Dunne (The Harps).

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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