At this time of year you’ll get all sorts of reviews and previews, Best of pieces and predictions for 2018.
And as 2017 draws to a close we’ve decided to pick the top 10 GAA clubs of the year.
It’s not a particularly straight-forward task – trying to compare clubs across different codes and big clubs against smaller ones.
But we’ve attempted to rank the top 10 GAA clubs on the season just finished – in terms of success relative to their expectations at the start of the year.
10 – Rosenallis
Being a small dual club isn’t easy and if we were doing this list in 2016, then Rosenallis would have been vying for a top three placing, if not the top spot itself. Promoted from intermediate hurling and junior football last year, they had a highly commendable season in 2018 in the higher grade in both codes – and will lament the fact that the season didn’t go even better for them.
In football they won promotion to Division 1B of the league while in the championship they recorded wins over Timahoe and Courtwood before Portlaoise beat them in the semi-final.
In hurling, they started the year with a fine championship win over The Harps and although they lost to eventual champions Ballyfin Gaels the next day out they responded by absolutely hammering Clonaslee in the quarter-final. Colt Gaels beat them in the semi-final but they should be right in the mix for the Senior ‘A’ title again in 2018.
Mountmellick were in the mix here having won two junior hurling titles but relegation from the senior football saw them outside the top ten.
While Graiguecullen can probably feel hard done by having reached a senior semi final and an U-21 final.
9 – O’Dempsey’s
The O’Dempsey’s senior footballers may have disappointed in the championship – although they did have the misfortune of being drawn to play Portlaoise twice.
But they won Division 1 of the league for the first time since 2006 and also appeared in league finals with their second team in Division 3 and their third team in Division 4. Their second team also reached the Junior ‘A’ semi-final and came within seconds of reaching a first final since 1951.
8 – Clough-Ballacolla
Okay, so the only adult trophy their got their hands on was the Minor ‘B’ hurling title – but they did a lot right over the course of the year. As well as reaching Division 1 and 2 hurling league finals, they also went on to play their part in an epic senior final, an epic drawn U-21 final and got to the intermediate semi-final.
One of four hurling clubs – Rathdowney-Errill, Camross and Borris-Kilcotton being the others – that fielded four teams in 2018. They won’t be short of motivation in 2018.
7 – Rathdowney-Errill
For a long spell of their drawn U-21 final against neighbours Clough-Ballacolla it looked as if they were going to end the season without any silverware. But they pulled it out of the fire and went on to win the replay, again in thrilling circumstances.
Ultimately, they got the job done the second day – and it went some way towards undoing the hurt of losing the junior and intermediate finals on the same day a couple of weeks earlier. Still, for any club to play in three hurling finals in the same season. Their senior team disappointed but they are another club not short of motivation for 2018.
6 – Emo
Many will say they shouldn’t have found themselves in the intermediate grade in 2017, just two years after they could have won the senior championship.
But they responded in the best way possible, finishing high up in Division 1B of the league and then impressing en route to the intermediate final. They eventually claimed the title after a replayed final win over Portlaoise and went on to play three games in the Leinster club championship. A number of their younger players also played in minor and U-17 finals so they do have players coming through.
5 – Ballylinan
A first senior final appearance in 30 years and a Division 1B league title success was a good return for their senior team and their U-21s – playing on their own for the first time in a number of years after they split from their two Arles neighbours – also won the ‘B’ title.
They’ll look to build on 2017 next year – but the memory of reaching a county final and two thrilling wins over Portarlington will mean this is season they won’t forget in a hurry.
4 – Portlaoise
Senior football champions for the 10th time in 11 years and their dominance of the Laois SFC after losing the title last year hits at another spell of success.
But they’ll be disappointed by how their Leinster campaign ended, and watching their conquerors Moorefield go on to claim provincial glory will have left them kicking themselves. Their intermediate football team had a fine year too but their minors and U-21s both exited their championships without winning a game.
Their hurlers struggled in 2017 being relegated from Division 1 of the league and later from both the senior and intermediate championships. They had a decent U-21 side and they should be right in the mix for Senior ‘A’ glory next year.
3 – Ballyfin
Ballyfin will have the distinction of being the county’s only dual senior club in 2018 following their Senior ‘A’ hurling success this year, albeit by operating as a ‘Gaels’ team in both codes.
Their hurling final win over Colt Gaels buried the demons of losing to Castletown in the decider 12 months earlier while their footballers caused a big shock by beating champions Stradbally in Round 2.
2 – Portarlington
A first senior football semi-final appearance in 16 years, a second minor title in four years and a first U-21 title since 1994 all points to as good a year as Portarlington have had since their all-conquering years of the late ’80s.
As ever all clubs will be attempting to knock Portlaoise off their perch in 2018 – and Portarlington should be as well placed as anyway.
1 – Camross
This one was a bit of a no-brainer. Senior hurling champions; minor hurling champions; U-17 hurling champions; senior and U-16 camogie champions.
Add in U-12 and U-13 championship successes, Division 1 and 4 hurling titles, a Division 5 hurling final appearance and a Division 5 football triumph. The trophy table at their Dinner Dance will be heaving. 2018 has a lot to live up to.