Cunningham was controversially ousted by player power in Galway last year but is back on the intercounty scene with the Laois footballers for the forthcoming championship campaign.
Lillis revealed Cunningham attended a recent training camp at Breaffy House in Mayo and it was confirmed over the weekend that he is now on board as Laois home in their Leinster SFC first round clash at home to Wicklow on Sunday week, May 14.
Lillis explained: “He was with us on a training camp a few weeks ago in Breaffy House and after that, it went from there. That was the first time I met him. I would have known him from a distance and by reputation but wouldn’t have had any contact previously.”
While Cunningham’s management career will be remembered primarily for his stint in Galway, who he led to All-Ireland senior hurling finals in 2012 and last year, he also enjoyed considerable success in club football management with Roscommon outfit St Brigid’s and Westmeath’s Garrycastle.
Cunningham linked up with the Laois players on their home soil for the first time on Saturday evening and Lillis said: “He was excellent with us. He brings a freshness to the whole thing, which is what we wanted. He’s well-motivated, he’s a good guy and has great experience.”
Laois suffered relegation to Division 3 of the Allianz Football League this year but victory over Wicklow would set up a Leinster quarter-final against provincial and All-Ireland champions Dublin at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.