Leinster club hurling comes to O’Moore Park this afternoon when Camross welcome Carlow champions Mount Leinster Rangers for a provincial quarter-final clash.
Camross haven’t played competitively in six weeks since their thrilling Laois final win over Clough-Ballacolla but they have been kept busy on the practice match circuit even if county player Dwane Palmer picked up a serious leg injury in one of them ruling him out for a number of months.
He’ll be a big loss against the Carlow champions, who like Camross, are appearing in the Leinster club for the first time since 2013. But while Camross were beaten by eight points by Kilcormac-Killoughey that year, Mount Leinster Rangers won a famous Leinster title and went on to play Portumna in the All Ireland final on St Patrick’s Day.
Indeed the Laois champions have a very poor record in Leinster in the last number of years with Rathdowney-Errill’s win over Westmeath champions Clonkill in 2012 the only match won since Castletown got the better of Wicklow side Glenealy way back in 2005.
They have invariably come up against fine sides – Oulart-the-Ballagh, Cuala, Ballyhale Shamrocks and O’Loughlin Gaels among the teams that have beaten the Laois winners.
In any case, Mount Leinster Rangers will provide another stiff test. Camross are the slight 5/6 favourites but the Carlow champions can call on the likes of Denis Murphy and Paul Coady and under the guidance of former Laois manager Brendan Fennelly they’ll be keen to repeat their exploits of four years ago having escaped Carlow again and the recent dominance of St Mullin’s there.
“We are really excited and looking forward to it a lot,” said Camross manager Arien Delaney when speaking about today’s game to GAA.ie during the week.
“We have a good tradition in Leinster in the club and we are really looking forward to it.
“The tradition does matter a lot, it gives us help because in the parish here you have plenty of guys with Leinster medals.
“It gives us belief that some of the lads fathers and uncles that they have Leinster medals. It shows that it is not an unachievable goal. It is achievable if you have the proper mentality and proper attitude, I suppose, really. You should have no fear, embrace the challenge, that is what it is all about embracing the challenge.”
That tradition points to Leinster club championship success in 1996 and 1976 and that was something that Zane Keenan referenced in his speech after the Laois final, recalling his memories as a child in Killenure school when the Leinster trophy visited over 20 years ago.
The winners of today’s game will play the winners of Kilcormac-Killoughey and Castletown-Geoghegan in two weeks time.
They’ve a long way to go before they repeat the feats of those teams but they can get a win today.
The game throws in at 2pm in O’Moore Park.
Meanwhile, Rathdowney-Errill and Portlaoise meet in the Laois U-21 hurling semi-final in Durrow at 11.30am, with a place in the final up for grabs for the winners.
Portlaoise have put in a very busy week, getting the better of champions Borris-Kilcotton in a quarter-final replay on Tuesday night while six of that team were involved a gripping U-21 football quarter-final on Friday night against St Joseph’s.
So it’s a third game in six games for those players and a fourth in eight for Frank Flanagan who also played for the senior footballers in their Leinster club game against Rhode last Sunday.
Aaron Bergin starred for Portlaoise in that win over Borris-Kilcotton and will be key again for a side under the management of Cheddar Plunkett.
Rathdowney-Errill will be without the supremely talented Mark Kavanagh but they can call on Laois senior players like Jack Kelly and Liam O’Connell and Paddy McKane and Shane Madden hurled senior club championship this year.
Rathdowney-Errill have to be fancied to set up a final meeting with Clough-Ballacolla.