We’re getting down to business now. With the leagues all out of the way and the championship looming large on the horizon, we’ve updated our club hurling rankings.
The leagues aren’t the most reliable gauge – with county players out for a lot of the games, many of them played in early spring and generally more players missing for any amount of reasons.
There’s a couple of changes in our Top 25 but you can expect many more in the coming weeks as championship form begins to show.
25 – Ballypickas (No change)
Junior ‘A’ champions last year and up to intermediate this year. The step up will be a challenge but they have a decent enough team that will relish mixing it a higher grade this year.
24 – Mountmellick (No change)
Enjoyed a great hurling season in 2017 and are up a grade this year to Junior ‘A’, the only team at that level to make our Top 25.
23 – Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe (Down 1 place)
The newest Laois hurling club after the two neighbours decided to join up. They had a good run in Division 3 of the league and should improve as the championship goes on. But they still have a bit of ground to make up on the teams ahead of them.
22 – Camross (Down 1 place)
Camross’s second team are always decent enough and they had a good league final win recently in Division 3, although that is two grades below what Rathdowney-Errill were playing. Plenty of players though so should be in contention.
21 – Clonad (Down 2 places)
One of the higher-ranked intermediate sides going on league placing and only beaten eventual champions Trumera after a replay last year. Need to show a bit of improvement but won’t be too far away.
20 – Borris-Kilcotton (Down 3 places)
Relegated from Senior ‘A’ last year, they should be in contention in the intermediate if they can keep a settled team together.
19 – Slieve Bloom (Up 4 places)
Beaten quarter-finalists last year but have Ben Conroy back from injury and going a lot better this year as evidenced by their run to the Division 2 league title. The best of the first teams in the intermediate grade?
18 – Clough-Ballacolla (Up 2 places)
Recent Division 2 champions and a fine second-string side. Intermediate finalists two years ago and semi-finalists last year they’ll be in the mix again if they don’t lose too many to their senior side.
17 – Rathdowney-Errill (Up 1 place)
Will have been disgusted by the manner of their intermediate final loss last year. Showed the depth of quality at the club’s disposal by reaching the 1A league final but need to keep that team together.
16 – Trumera (No change)
Were relegated in 2016 after winning intermediate in 2015. Won that grade again last year but have a battle to avoid the drop again.
15 – Shanahoe Gaels (No change)
Avoided relegation last year from the Senior ‘A’ and could have a similar battle on their hands this year even if their Ballypickas contingent are more established this year.
14 – Mountrath (No change)
Like Clonaslee have fallen back since losing the Senior ‘A’ final a couple of years back. Need to improve vastly on last year’s showing if they’re to be in contention.
13 – Clonaslee (No change)
Have regressed since losing the Senior ‘A’ final in 2015 and were well beaten by The Harps in the quarter-final last year. Would appear a bit off the top four teams in this grade but should have enough to avoid relegation bother.
12 – Colt Gaels (Down 2 places)
Possibly a bit harsh to have last year’s Senior ‘A’ finalists so low but they had a poor league campaign and will have to improve if they’re to get back to a final again. Well capable, though, of taking out one of the teams above them and few would fancy meeting them.
11 – Portlaoise (Down 2 places)
Generally the team relegated from senior start the Senior ‘A’ campaign as favourites but Portlaoise are on a slide the last couple of seasons and have had a fierce run of defeats in league and championship in the last two seasons. They could be in the mix to go up but they’ll have to find form fast.
10 – Rosenallis (Up 1 places)
A big question surrounding Rosenallis in both hurling and football will be whether they can keep burning the fires brightly in both codes for a third year running.
Winning Division 1A of the league was an achievement and they go into the championship with high hopes of winning a second county title in three seasons.
9 – The Harps (Up 3 places)
They started last year’s championship as favourites to win the Senior ‘A’ but disappointed greatly with losses to both Rosenallis and Ballyfin Gaels. Competing in the top division of the league will stand to them and while they start as favourites again, few will fear them.
8 – Ballyfin Gaels (No change)
Had a great year in 2017 but lost last year’s manager and then this year’s new management team early in the season. Will welcome back their Mountmellick contingent but they have ground to make up on the rest of the senior teams if they’re to avoid an immediate return to Senior ‘A’ grade.
7 – Ballinakill Gaels (Down 1 place)
Their off-season attempt to bring Trumera on board as part of a Gaels team was unsuccessful. Have a nice spread of quality but numbers is always an issue with them. An opening round win over neighbours Abbeyleix would see them rise here and give them a great chance of getting through to the knockout stages.
6 – Castletown Gaels (Up 1 place)
Had a bad league campaign and have a very tough championship draw, in a group with Camross, Clough-Ballacolla and Rathdowney-Errill. Have the Slieve Bloom contingent in with them again this year after an absence of a couple of seasons. Their first game against Camross could represent a chance to cause a shock.
5 – Abbeyleix (No change)
They put in one of the displays of the championship last year when overturning Camross but then fell flat against Clough-Ballacolla in the semi-final.
Always likely to turn over one of the big four but need two big knockout wins to win it out. Will need to improve greatly on their league form if they’re not to fall down this list.
4 – Rathdowney-Errill (No change)
They have a team littered with county men and will be well in the mix too. Ross King will be a big loss for the opening couple of rounds as he’s in America but if they get out of the group, nobody will fancy them in the knockout stages.
3 – Borris-Kilcotton (No change)
There’s very little between any of the top four teams in the county but Borris-Kilcotton have lost a bit of ground since their memorable championship triumph in 2016.
In the easier of the two championship groups but they need to take a big knockout championship scalp to rise up the rankings.
2 – Clough-Ballacolla (No change)
They ended last season a hell of a lot better than they started it and while they lost the recent league semi-final to Camross, they still have plenty of quality and will have Stephen Maher back in the mix again this year. His return is offset by the long-term loss of Tom Delaney and the shorter-term absence of Darren Maher. Leading the list of challengers to dethrone Camross.
1 – Camross (No change)
County champions and back to back league champions. Camross may have lost their long-serving manager Arien Delaney after last year’s success but they’ve replaced him with Danny Owens from across the county boundary and their league semi-final and final wins over Clough-Ballacolla and Rathdowney-Errill highlighted that they’re still the team to beat.
Will be a bit understrength for their opening game against Castletown Gaels but they start the championship as favourites. And rightly so.