With the Laois SHC final now just three days away, the excitement in Clough-Ballacolla is at fever pitch as they prepare to take on Camross in O’Moore Park on Sunday.
Going for their second title in three years and their fourth since 2009, a win would further mark it down as the most glorious spell in the club’s history.
Ahead of the big day, we visited the two villages and the two schools that feed into the club – Clough and Ballacolla.
Our first stop of the day was in Clough where principal Olga Hyland had the 96 students and six staff members* in their club colours to show their support.
*Mountrath hurler Martin Carroll – who works in the school – opted not to wear a Clough-Ballacolla jersey for the day that was in it!
A number of the current players are past pupils and there was personalised signs for two of them. “Willie do it? Yes he Will,” in reference to top scorer Hyland was one while “Tom will ‘Brew’ up a storm,” was the other and a nod to Tom Delaney and his busy coffee shop in Portlaoise.
Incidentally both were made on the back of Good Luck signs to the 2016 Laois Rose Kate Hyland, also a past student and daughter of principal Olga.
As well as Hyland and Delaney, among the other current players educated in Clough NS were John A Delaney, Stephen Bergin, Robbie Phelan, Lee Cleere and Brian and Aidan Corby.
And there was also a lot of connections to the Clough-Ballacolla team from within the school – Lee Cleere’s younger brothers Jason and Eanna both very proud of their big brother.
Another link to the current team is that Bill Dunne’s dad Liam is a Clough-Ballacolla selector.
With the deafening cheers ringing around the school, it was then back to Ballacolla where the students were also looking forward to Sunday’s game. Principal Kieran Byrne warmly welcomed us to the 31-student, two-teacher school where the pupils were just as well decked out in the blue and yellow colours.
A good bulk of the team are past pupils – and obviously never had far to go to the hurling pitch which is adjacent to the school – and the next generation are now proudly wearing the club colours too.
Among the students we met in Ballacolla were John Coonan, whose dad Canice is captain on Sunday, and Aoife Hanlon, daughter of goalkeeper Danny. Both are looking forward to Sunday and will have a special role marching in the pre-match parade.
And with a big cheer for Clough-Ballacolla we were gone, the students were back in class and we got a quick look at the huge straw bear across the road from the GAA pitch.
The countdown is well and truly on!