The most important competition in club hurling in Laois gets underway this weekend as the Senior A hurling championship begins.
There are four games to look forward to this weekend – on on Friday, two on Saturday and another on Sunday.
Borris-Kilcotton are reigning champions but they are ravaged by injuries so, in what is a wide open championship, Camross may be favourites.
Arien Delaney’s men are reigning league champions after a big win over Clough-Ballacolla and look set to go all the way this year.
But the aforementioned duo, along with Rathdowney-Errill will all be there come the shake up.
But ahead of the start of the competition, and just like we did with the Senior A last week, we’ve taken a look at one promising young star from each team who should make a real impression in the championship.
Abbeyleix – Jake Cranny
Abbeyleix begin their senior championship campaign on Saturday evening against Castletown and there certainly won’t be much between the sides.
Jake Cranny was part of the Abbeyleix Gaels team who won the minor championship last year and he has progressed seamlessly into the senior ranks.
The forward racked up scores in many of his side’s league games and Abbeyleix will be hoping he carries that good form into this weekend.
Ballinakill Gaels – Lir McDonald
Lir McDonald applied to transfer from Slieve Margy to Ballinakill at the start of the year but that application was refused.
This ruled him out of playing in the league but he appealed that decision and since won his case making him eligible to play for Ballinakill now.
Ballinakill Gaels start their campaign against reigning champions Borrisk-Kilcotton tonight and, in the likely absence of star player Cha Dwyer, they will be hoping McDonald and others will step up to the plate.
Borris-Kilcotton – Aaron Dunphy
Borris-Kilcotton are reigning champions but are reportedly suffering from a severe injury crisis.
Joe Campion, Paddy Whelan, Stephen Phelan and Danny Fitzpatrick are all injured while Colm Stapleton is in America and PJ Scully has only just returned to action after a long lay off.
So, in the face of all of that, Aaron Dunphy may be the man to stand up and lead the line. He got plenty of experience with the Laois seniors this year and Borris-Kilcotton will be hoping that stands to him.
Camross – Mark Dowling
Camross are many people’s favourites to lift the senior championship at the end of this year – and that belief will be boosted if they defeat Rathdowney-Errill on Sunday.
They have a lovely blend of youth and experience and one of those youthful players who we play a big part is Mark Dowling.
The forward may not start, but he will certainly come off the bench and make an impact. He’s already won two league medals this year, one hurling and one football, but he’ll be hoping to add a championship one to that haul.
Castletown – Eoin Peters
Castletown are recently promoted from the Senior A and their aim for the year will surely be to maintain their status.
Ryan Mullaney will be looked upon to use his experience with Laois to drive them on but one of the young players who could make an impression is Eoin Peters.
He has looked adept in several positions across the backline for Castletown during the league and will be a big player for them in the championship.
Clough-Ballacolla – Stephen Bergin
Clough-Ballacolla are another team ravaged by injuries and that all came to a head in the league final when they were well beaten by Camross.
Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher is out for the year while Willie Dunphy will also miss a chunk of it with a hand injury.
So in their quest for scores, the likes of Stephen Bergin will have to stand up and be counted. He got minutes under his belt with the Laois seniors this year too.
Portlaoise – Aaron Bergin
Cheddar Plunkett’s Portlaoise are another side who are crippled with injury.
Experienced Tommy Fitzgerald could miss the season with a knee injury while Tony Byrne has a shoulder problem.
Darragh Rigney, Seán Culleton and Conor Dunne will all also miss Saturday evening’s clash with Clough-Ballacolla.
And in their absence, Aaron Bergin could be the man that the Town turn to for scores.
Rathdowney-Errill – Paddy McCane
Everyone’s second favourites after Camross, which makes the meeting between the pair even more intriguing.
The tag of player to watch could have fallen to Mark Kavanagh or Jack Kelly – both of whom played for the Laois seniors this year – but we’ve gone for Paddy McCane.
The forward just missed out on being eligible for minor this year but he came off the bench for the Laois U-21s in their defeat to Westmeath this year.
He may not start for Rathdowney-Errill but he won’t be far away.