Brought to you in association with Crown Paints Portlaoise
We have three mouth-watering clashes taking place in the Laois SFC today.
County champions Stradbally will be hoping to get their defence back on track when they take on Ballyfin Gaels at 4.30pm.
Then, there is a derby at 6pm as St Joseph’s are up against Ballylinan.
Finally, at 7.30pm, two of the favourites for this year’s crown go head to head as Portlaoise face O’Dempsey’s.
Here, we look ahead to all three:
SFC R2 Q – Ballyfin Gaels v Stradbally
Things did not go to plan for County Champions Stradbally in their Round 1 defeat to The Heath and if they are not careful, they could find themselves in the relegation semi-final.
And they are grappling with an injury crisis. Liam Knowles, Jamie Kavanagh, Damien Murphy and John Donohue are all rated as doubtful for the game.
Donohue and Murphy were forced off in the loss to The Heath while Kavanagh didn’t play any part in that game.
They will have Darren Maher available again however after he served a one match ban after being sent off in their Leinster club championship defeat last year.
Ballyfin didn’t start well against O’Dempsey’s and it cost them in the end.
But, they introduced Laois minor midfielder Robert Tyrrell at half time, and he changed the game.
If he forms a midfield partnership with James Finn from the start, it will be interesting to see how they get on against Darren Maher and Colm Begley.
O’Dempsey’s managed to keep Seán Moore very quiet in Round 1 with Shane Nerney following him everywhere. Stradbally will have to find somebody to marshal him similarly.
The bookies have Stradbally as overwhelming favourites but if they are missing the amount of players as named above, this could be far closer.
ODDS: Stradbally 1/8, Ballyfin 9/2, Draw 14/1
SFC R2 W – Ballylinan v St Joseph’s
This is a meeting of the side who were the most impressive of the Round 1 winners against a team who may have peaked already.
Ballylinan played Mountmellick Gaels in Ratheniska in Round 1 and had very little trouble getting the win.
While their forwards, like Gary Walsh, Cathail Dunne and Ciaran Farrell often steal the headlines, it was the performance of their defenders that was most impressive.
Kevin Byrne won an ocean of ball and Alan Farrell seemed to be everywhere in the win.
Meanwhile, St Joseph’s started the year like a train but have certainly tapered off in recent months.
Adam Campion, Michael Keogh and Danny Hickey’s departures to the USA for the summer coincided with a dip in form which resulted in them losing the league final.
They were undoubtedly relieved to get over Clonaslee-St Manman’s Gaels in Round 1 but again they weren’t brilliant.
With the three lads set to be unavailable once again tonight, perhaps Ballylinan can grab a big win.
ODDS: St Joseph’s 5/6, Ballylinan 6/5, Draw 13/2
SFC R2 W – O’Dempsey’s v Portlaoise
The final game of the evening is perhaps the most exciting – league champions O’Dempsey’s against championship favourites Portlaoise.
There were a number of questions marks around Malachy McNulty’s Portlaoise before their Round 1 game against Arles-Kilcruise.
But in the first half, they dispelled any doubts about them by carving Kilcruise open at will.
However, they dropped off considerably in the second half and allowed their opponents back into the game which was surprising.
But they are operating without the likes of Brian Glynn, Cahir Healy, Craig Rogers and Brian Smith so they are probably not as strong as in previous years.
As for O’Dempsey’s, they will be hoping Conor Meredith’s recovery from an arm injury has stayed on track and he will be available to play for the first time in over a month.
He missed the win over Ballyfin Gaels but he wasn’t really needed as they simply had too much quality.
This is very hard to call and although Portlaoise will be favourites, O’Dempsey’s certainly have a chance.
ODDS: Portlaoise 1/8, O’Dempsey’s 9/2, Draw 14/1