The championship season began in earnest of the weekend with four club hurling games – and there was plenty to talk about in the aftermath.
1 – Rosenallis shock The Harps
Rosenallis enjoyed the season of all seasons in 2016 by winning the junior football title and the intermediate hurling crown and by the looks of it they have no intentions of resting on their laurels.
They were handed arguably the toughest draw of all in the opening round of the SHC ‘A’ by getting The Harps, who were only relegated from the top tier last year. But Rosenallis matched them throughout and then impressively finished the game really strong when it was there for the taking. They have an amount of good young players and a handful of players able to score. After this win, they’ll have eyes on going all the way.
The Harps, for their part, will be disappointed with their performance. They shot 15 wides in total (compared to nine for Rosenallis) and returning to the senior grade will be tougher than they may first have thought. Ballinakill, Portlaoise and Castletown have all bounced back straight away from relegation but The Harps have some improvement to make if they’re to do the same. This loss could well be the makings of them but they’re in a bit of a rut now in the championship having won just three out of 14 games going all the way back to 2013.
2 – Colt and Ballyfin safely through
Colt were in the middle of a controversy only a couple of weeks back when the Division 1A final they were due to play against The Harps failed to go ahead. But they didn’t let that setback derail them and they proved much too strong for neighbours Shanahoe Gaels in O’Moore Park on Saturday.
They welcomed two Clonad players – Michael Kerr and Paul Ging – into their starting team as a Gaels outfit and it was as a good a start to the championship as they could hope for.
Ballyfin also welcomed a handful of Mountmellick players into their starting team and had enough to get the better of Mountrath, who were the only side in Saturday’s double header to be operating on their own.
Winning the first game eases relegation worries straight away but for Mountrath, Shanahoe Gaels and The Harps, they’re now just one loss away from being in a relegation decider.
3 – Trumera do enough
Trumera were another club to dabble with the ‘Gaels’ experiment last year when they welcomed some Kyle players into the fold. They ended up being relegated and that arrangement is no longer in place. They’ll rightly have designs on making it back up though and they battled through a tough encounter against Park-Ratheniska on Sunday evening to book their place in the winners side of Round 2.
Park-Ratheniska had chances to win this one but a couple of good saves from Ronan Kavanagh were crucial while the likes of Cathal Brophy, Joey Coogan and Dylan Lalor are all dangerous for Truemra at the other end. Park had good performances from Gavin Tynan, Conor Brennan and John Holohan but a serious-looking injury to Jimmy Langton could be a massive blow to the club’s hurlers and footballers.
4 – Programmes?
The weekend match programme that Laois have been producing for the best part of the last ten years is a great service but there was none at the weekend in O’Moore Park on Saturday or Mountrath on Sunday. It was something that didn’t go down well with supporters who have been used to getting it, however.
Programmes were produced for the league finals the weekend previous and correspondence has been sent to clubs to have their list of names in to the county board by Tuesday in order to be in next week’s publication.
Little things make a big difference, as they say.
5 – Club grounds, great atmosphere
We’ve become used to the majority of games being played in O’Moore Park but it made for a pleasant change to see a double-header fixed for Mountrath on Sunday evening. There was a fine crowd, a great atmosphere and the club officials on duty ensured everything ran smoothly.
While O’Moore Park has plenty of advantages as a venue – a covered stand, warm-up facilities at the adjacent Laois GAA Training Centre, big dressing rooms, a press box etc – a venue like Mountrath, particularly on a fine summer’s evening, contributes to sense of a championship occasion.
6 – Junior football and the ‘hurling’ teams
Last year’s Junior ‘B’ football final was between Camross and Mountrath and the Junior ‘C’ decider was between Rathdowney and Errill as the ‘hurling’ clubs dominated the lower football grades.
It looks as though that trend could be about to continue. Errill are now into the Junior ‘B’ semi-finals while Slieve Bloom got the better of O’Dempsey’s in the Junior ‘C’ on Sunday. A range of other clubs, where hurling is the first sport, could well get on a run in that grade too.
Camross and The Harps are in the Junior ‘A’ and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare when that championship gets underway next week.