With the GAA club season slowing getting back into full swing over, we have decided to rank the teams.
Division 2 of the ACFL began last week and while Divisions 1A and 1B were due to start last weekend, they were called off due to the snow.
So, ahead of their games which will start with Portarlington’s trip to face Stradbally, we have sat down and ranked the teams.
Each team is ranked upon how their season went last year and even some second teams made the list.
Last year, we ranked all the teams in the top three grades of the game in Laois.
However, we have decided to be a bit more cut-throat this time and have limited the list to 30.
This means that ten teams competing in the Junior A grade are not currently ranked.
But we will be keeping an eye on their progress and they may well break in as the season goes on.
The list will be updated throughout the year as the league and championship progresses.
So do you agree or disagree with our initial selection? Be sure to let us know!
30 – Graiguecullen (Second Team)
They are a very capable second team, winning Division 3 last year was a great achievement but the junior championship didn’t pan out the way they wanted last year as they went out in the last eight against O’Dempsey’s. They are always vulnerable of losing some of their key men towards the business end of championship to their senior team though.
29 – O’Dempsey’s (Second Team)
Again another second team that has the ability to give the Junior A championship a good rattle. The epic two part drama against Kilcavan ended their interest last year, and perhaps some of their better players will make the step up to the senior side. They will be tricky all the same.
28 – Spink
Have some good players and it shows when playing with Crettyard but they are well down in the leagues now competing in Division 4 so that will not be ideal preparation.
27 – Park-Ratheniska
Their championship can only be described as disappointing. A good side, full talent and for years competed well in the Intermediate, but now face yet another year in the Junior A. Have the ability to win it, but can they make the breakthrough? Denied in 2016 by Rosenallis in the final but went out in the semi final last year against eventual winners St Joseph’s.
26 – Kilcavan
They weren’t the tipped side for the Junior championship last year but made it to the final all the same, outclassed by an exceptional St Joseph’s side. The are unpredictable, but they certainly have the capability of doing well if things are in their favour. Contenders in the Junior.
25 – Annanough
Big questions to be answered this year. Everyone expects an immediate return to intermediate but just ask Ratheniska how hard it is. Some talented young players are making the step-up to adult football and that can only benefit the small club. Have to be the favourites come championship, but the league will tell a lot.
24 – St Joseph’s (Second Team)
A second team that took the Junior A championship by storm last season, with some big names in their ranks. Can they hold onto that group of players to challenge in the Intermediate? Tom Kelly and Noel Garvan are back on board and if they manage to hold onto them and blend in a number of their younger players, then they will be tough opponents for anyone.
23 – Barrowhouse
Hung on in their for yet another year, but 2018 will be without their main scorer Eric Mackey, who has transferred away to Graiguecullen. He was their hero in that relegation final, kicking the leveling and winning points as well as two goals that day. The most likely team to make the drop, but have a habit of surprising us all.
22 – The Rock
They had an impressive championship considering their league campaign. They are now competing in the fourth tier of Laois league and they must become less dependent on the talents of Aaron Dowling. Semi-finals would be a good achievement again this season, along with promotion from Division 3.
21 – Courtwood
For a number of years now they have brought through some very talented players and it is no different this year but they might have to wait a little longer before that talent comes to fruition for their Intermediates. They certainly have the ability to compete in this year’s Intermediate championship and Eddie Kinsella’s men will look to push on.
20 – Rosenallis
A great club! Competing at the second tier in both codes and it shouldn’t change this season. A venture into unknown territory this season as they compete in Division 1B but that can be only of benefit this young side who are under new management in the form of Johnny Irwin this year. Their season will be worth keeping an eye on.
19 – Timahoe
Timahoe would probably be back up in the senior grade by now if it wasn’t for their unlucky streak in terms of facing the team that has been relegated. Clonaslee, O’Dempsey’s and last year Emo, have all ended their previous three campaigns. For the level of talent in their squad they certainly can compete, and their goal has be getting out of Intermediate as this is their fifth consecutive season down here.
18 – Portlaoise (Second Team)
Unlucky perhaps not have won the Intermediate championship last season. The Portlaoise second team has talent that would walk onto most senior teams in the county which is a very scary thought. They will be there or there abouts when it comes to the business end of the season once again you’d imagine.
17 – Mountmellick Gaels
A Gaels team getting relegated can only mean that it didn’t work, but they are sticking with it again for their assault to get back up senior. Maybe a step down in the competition will benefit their agreement, and the Mountmellick men will be hoping to keep hold of their Division 1B status too.
16 – Emo
Impressive in the Intermediate, and unlucky not to progress further in Leinster but survival in the senior should be very much the goal for this young side. They have the talent to cause some upsets but a repeat of 2015 where they reached the final is highly unlikely.
15 – Clonaslee St Manman’s Gaels
A big surprise when this Gaels side was formed with Annanough and they were disappointed when they failed to achieve success in the championship. They secured survival by defeating Mountmellick Gaels all the same and with a greater effort and more time together, it might work out better this season.
14 – Arles-Kilcruise
They survived relegation last year thanks to a last minute Ross Munnelly penalty in the decider against Mountmellick. Back under the guidance of 2003 guru Larry Wall this year in the hopes it will revitalise them. They are getting that little bit older each year so it is about integrating the young lads coming through while staying clear of the drop.
13 – Ballyroan-Abbey
They shouldn’t be fearing the drop but it’s hard to see them making a big impact on the championship. Scott Conroy is back this season after a spell away in London, which can only benefit this talented outfit. A step beyond last seasons exploits where they exited in Round 3 would be a good year.
12 – Crettyard Gaels
They have some great individual talent going forward but it is at the back where this side have lacked. Reached the semi finals in 2016 for the first time ever after teaming up with Spink to form their Gaels team. Defeated Clonaslee Gaels last year but defeats to Ballyroan and O’Dempsey’s ended their year.
11 – Stradbally
Disappointing or over-achieved? That’s what most people were asking last year when Stradbally failed to make an impact on last year’s championship. 2016 was certainly a fairytale year but can Stradbally call themselves a title competing side? It is hard to know. Under native Barney Maher this year, they have some great talent dotted throughout the side but they have to move on from the 2016 success and build again.
10 – Ballyfin Gaels
Many tipped them to fall to relegation last year but their season actually turned out well. A big ask in the first round against Portlaoise but they should have the talent require to stay away from the drop. Although, it will be interesting to see how they cope with James Finn who has emigrated to the Middle East.
9 – The Heath
Always capable of challenging against the top sides in the county but they tend to fall short when it really counts. They have plenty of good players and on their day they can beat anyone but quarter-finals should be aim.
8 – Arles-Killeen
With the two Kingstons in their ranks anything is possible but what stops them is their limited squad. Youth is something they don’t possess at the moment but they have a good group of players to hover around the business end of the championship as they have shown before. Will be without Donie Kingston for their first round clash with Emo though as he will be serving a suspension picked up in defeat to Portarlington.
7 – Killeshin
Since they got promoted from the Intermediate grade, Killeshin have threatened on a number of occasions to make a real impact on the senior championship. Under Maurice Brown this year, they will hope to end their quarter final/Round 3 hoodoo and reach a semi final.
6 – St Joseph’s
A team full of talented youth and promise, but can they convert that into success will be the question that people will ask. We seen two years ago that they can perform with the best when they brought Portlaoise down to the wire. Their season fell away somewhat last year after they lost the league final and they will be hoping to get going quickly this year.
5 – O’Dempsey’s
After their return to Senior, O’Dempsey’s showed that 2015 was a freak accident. They are a skillful team that up until the year they dropped down to Intermediate, many believed had the ability to overturn Portlaoise. Some recent underage success and introduction of youth can only benefit this side. Two defeats to the eventual champions ended their campaign last year but they did bag a league title along the way.
4 – Portarlington
A club with huge underage success in recent years, but can they turn that into Senior success? Without a doubt the most promising team in Laois with a constant flow of emerging talent coming true and it will be only a matter of time before that follows through to the Senior ranks. Reached a semi final last year and will look to go one better this time.
3 – Graiguecullen
Pádraig Clancy’s charges ended last year’s championship campaign by going down to favourites Portlaoise. The Timahoe man has certainly improved the Barrowsiders and they will surely be hoping that he gets even more out of the team this year. They are most definitely one of the chasing pack that can threaten Portlaoise.
2 – Ballylinan
Very impressive in last year’s championship and they gave Portlaoise a good game in the final. With Gary Walsh setting the National League alight, they will hope he can lead them to another final. Their young players really came to the fore in last year’s journey to the final and that can only be a positive.
1 – Portlaoise
Having won their 10th title in 11 years against Ballylinan, it is hard to look past The Town again to add another one. More county players than usual can only benefit Malachy McNulty’s charges too. Still the team to beat.