Had these counties been drawn to play a first round fixture, a Kildare team recently promoted to Division 1 would have been expected to easily account for a Laois outfit demoted to Division 4.
It’s not so straightforward now, however. Laois went a long way to redeeming themselves with a 4-15 to 0-16 victory over Longford in the first round. Much the same as Westmeath this season, it’s a shock that they’re consigned to the bottom tier of the league and another championship win would prove they have the talent to bounce back up.
With an attack including Donie and Paul Kingston and John O’Loughlin, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are capable of racking up big scores. Add in the experience of Colm Begley and Brendan Quigley around midfield, and a defensive unit striving to improve on frailties exposed in the league – albeit when reduced to 14 players in more games than they would like to remember – they won’t be push-overs at O’Connor Park.
Indeed, two years ago Laois and Kildare meet at the same venue, finishing all square first time out before Kildare dominated the replay.
Cian O’Neill is making strides with the Lilywhites and despite losing the Division 2 final to Galway, achieved their target from the league.
Injury concerns to up and coming forwards Neil Flynn and Ben McCormack have hampered their build-up, but Paddy Brophy is back in contention for a place. Niall Kelly hit five points in their most recent visit to Croke Park, while Kevin Feely and Tommy Moolick are growing into a formidable midfield partnership. Brothers Keith and Paul Cribbin are expected to start a Leinster SFC match together for the first time.
It’s 12 years since Laois, then managed by Mick O’Dwyer, beat Kildare in the championship – the 2005 semi-final by 0-21 to 0-9. Laois have not reached the Leinster semi-final since 2009, whereas the last year Kildare failed to reach the Leinster semi-final was 2010.
Their last five championship clashes are – 2015: Kildare 3-18 Laois 1-11 (Leinster quarter-final replay); 2015: Kildare 0-16 Laois 0-16 (Leinster quarter-final); 2011: Kildare 3-16 Laois 0-10 (All-Ireland qualifiers); 2009: Kildare 2-18 Laois 0-9 (Leinster semi-final); 2005: Laois 0-21 Kildare 0-9 (Leinster semi-final).
The winners will meet either Louth or Meath in the semi-finals.