Darren Strong: 'Laois will need an improved performance against Westmeath'
By Matthew Hurley
Former Laois footballer Darren Strong wouldn’t rate Mike Quirke’s side’s league campaign very highly going into their match against Westmeath on Sunday.
Laois lost 4 games from 4 in Division 2, but Strong hopes that we’ll see a different Laois side heading into Westmeath, live on GAAGO at 1:30pm.
‘Laois’ League performances weren’t overly exciting to watch, they didn’t get any wins. I don't think the boys will be very happy with their league performances.
‘Cork, very strong team, Down, we could be beating them, Clare, beat them last year and kind of seemed to be miles off them this year.
‘Hopefully, they’ve done a good bit of training in the background from between times off and hopefully it's a different team coming into the championship,’ Strong said.
Despite the poor performances, their former player is quietly confident of a possible Leinster Final appearance, depending on what way the draw goes.
‘I think Westmeath are moving well but Laois have something over Westmeath in championship.
‘Last few years, we've beaten them, so definitely beating Westmeath will kick start (the year), everyone will forget the bad league we had if we can beat Westmeath.
‘The Semi Final is an open draw, avoid Dublin and then look into getting into Leinster final, that would definitely turn around our year.’
For Laois to win on Sunday however, the former defender argues that 3 players in particular have to be at the top of their game.
‘Our captain Kieran (Lillis). If he's not performing, Laois don't perform as well, we hope to get Kieran on ball to attack them (Westmeath).
‘Evan O’Carroll is huge, if we can get Evan into space, get him on ball, he kicks with his right and left foot. The man has talent coming out through his eyebrows.
‘Begs (Colm Begley), Centre Back, grey head on his shoulders, will keep all the defenders focused.
‘If we can get them three boys up and running, they should be well on their way,’ Strong argued.
While being quietly confident, Strong also recognises the strengths Westmeath have.
‘It’s definitely not the same Westmeath team we would play going up against them (in the) last few years.
‘Just looking at their League performance, they only got beat by Mayo by 2 points. It’s gonna be a really tough game. Kieran Martin out injured is a huge loss for Westmeath.
‘I haven't heard about many challenge matches recently (regarding Laois) but Westmeath are going to be really up for it because being beaten by Laois down through the years must hurt.’
The former Laois player thinks his county will come out on top eventually.
‘I think it's going to be very close but I'm going for a Laois two point win, Evan O’Carroll man in the match with 1-2.’
There has been a lot of talk about the structure of the football championship, and Strong had his say on the matter.
‘I'd love to see a change of some sort because Dublin are miles ahead of everyone in Leinster.
I'm just chatting to a few Hurling lads and they like the way they do it and I know they don’t like playing in the second tier of it but the second tier teams get to win something, to play for something that had good chance of winning and I’d love to see something like that come into the GAA (Football Championship).