Football

Justin McNulty’s Laois seek revenge against Leitrim

The Connacht side were one-point winners when the sides met two weeks ago

Justin McNulty has come out in support of Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney
Justin McNulty will lead Laois in Croke Park for Saturday's Division Four League final Justin McNulty will lead Laois in Croke Park for Saturday's Division Four League final

Allianz Football League Division Four final

Laois v Leitrim (Saturday, Croke Park, 5pm, live on TG4)

IT’S just two short weeks since Laois and Leitrim locked horns but this weekend’s clash at Croke Park is arguably a more important one as there is silverware on the line this time around.

That recent encounter was a first defeat for Justin McNulty’s side, who finished at the top of Division Four with six wins from seven outing, while Leitrim snuck into a promotion position on head-to-head record with Wexford.

The one-point victory at Laois Hire O’Moore Park kept Leitrim in the promotion shake-up and they finished the job off in the final round with a comfortable win over Tipperary.

In the absence of Keith Beirne in the Leitrim forward line, Darragh Rooney and Ryan O’Rourke have really stepped up as the chief marksmen, with O’Rourke’s eye for goal proving particularly deadly this season.

In fact, no one across all four divisions has rattled the net as much as O’Rourke, who has raised five green flags, while Rooney is the top scorer in Division Four with 0-40 currently to his name.

The pair contributed 0-11 of Leitrim’s tally when they saw off Laois 0-17 to 1-13 a fortnight ago and if Laois are to collect the Division Four title, they’ll have to shut down the deadly influence of Rooney and O’Rourke.

But Laois have plenty of scoring potential themselves in the likes of Mark Barry, Paul Kingston and Evan O’Carroll and in the wide-open spaces of Croke Park, they’ll be confident of piling up a big score.

It’s not so long ago that Leitrim featured in the Division Four final, but they lost to Derry in 2019, 0-20 to 0-16, when the Oak Leaf County were just starting out on their mesmerising rise to the top.

Not only can they live off that experience, but Andy Moran and coach Mickey Graham have had plenty of big days recently that the players can surely feed off. Moran was part of the Mayo team that captured the Division One title that same year Leitrim made it to Croker.

Graham on the other hand has banked years of knowledge through his time with Cavan, having reached numerous league finals and even went all the way to unexpectedly win an Ulster title in 2020.

Laois are the favourites according to the bookmakers and probably are the best team on paper but as Leitrim have already shown this year, this month, they’re certainly a match for McNulty’s men.