Back in November, the first ever Laois Divisional championship came to an end.
Laois boss John Sugrue used the competition to pick out new players to join his squad.
We picked out 23 players from that competition and so far, nine of them have appeared in the O’Byrne Cup.
The Laois Divisional football competition came to an end on Saturday night in Stradbally with the Cup and Shield finals.
Laois senior football boss John Sugrue split the county up into four conferences in a bid to form a panel for the 2019 season.
A mix of current county players and potential panelists came together to form the East Central, South East, North East and West-North West teams.
The Laois manager also decided to donate all of the proceeds made from the games to the Kolbe Special School – asking for €2 admittance fee but the majority of people who attended gave far more.
Players from almost every club in the county took part with the exception of Portlaoise and Courtwood who are preparing to compete in their respective Leinster club championship campaigns this weekend.
As for the games themselves, the group stage saw the South East and East Central finish first and second respectively.
They contested the Cup final where the East Central avenged their round robin stage defeat to become the first ever champions.
Meanwhile, the North East and the West-North West met in the Shield final with the North East winning comfortably.
Well over 100 players took part in the games and we have picked out 23 of them that we were really impressed by.
We have excluded all the players who were part of the Laois panel in 2018 so this list is of lads we reckon could force their way into the squad for the 2019 season.
Check it out below:
Adam Campion (St Joseph’s)
Possibly the most consistent and impressive defender outside the 2018 Laois panel this year.
Had a brilliant year for his club and followed that up with a string of fine performances here. Surely one who will slot straight in.
Richie Hitchcock (Park-Ratheniska)
A Laois U-20 this year, Hitchcock has all the physical attributes to make it at senior level.
He is very powerful on the ball and is someone who would flourish in a senior environment.
Justin Lalor (Stradbally)
Lalor had a great year with Stradbally and carried that in to the Divisional Competition at wing back.
The 21-year-old didn’t represent Laois at minor or U-20 level but is certainly worth a look as he has a great engine.
Marty Scully (Ballyroan-Abbey)
Power, pace and a real ball carrier with a scoring threat. Marty Scully has it all.
He really thrived with Ballyroan-Abbey this year and after having the experience of being around a Laois panel as a teenager under Tomas Ó Flatharta, he knows exactly what is required.
Jack Deegan (Stradbally)
Like Lalor who was already mentioned on this list, Jack Deegan from Stradbally is another who did not represent Laois at minor or U-20 level.
But he showed very well as a rampaging forward in the trial games and his height is also very useful – along with his wand of a left foot.
Diarmuid Whelan (Ballyroan-Abbey)
Diarmuid Whelan would probably have been on the Laois panel this year but he opted to go with the U-20s.
He is still eligible for that grade this year but he could easily hold down a place at senior level such is his talent.
Seamus Lacey (Ballylinan)
Like Whelan above him, Seamus Lacey is eligible for U-20 next year and also again in 2020 – which is where he may well end up.
But he showed his power and fielding ability throughout this competition to demonstrate he would not be out of his depth at this level either.
Martin Doyle (Graiguecullen)
One of three Graiguecullen men to make this list, Doyle is a sticky corner back who has shown he can score as well.
Was part of the Laois U-20 panel this year and could be worth a look with the seniors.
Brian Byrne (Graiguecullen)
Byrne was quiet enough in the final by his own standards but he had been very impressive before that.
He had a great year with Graiguecullen and made our Team of The Year. Played for Laois at minor and U-21 level in the past too.
Aaron Forbes (Graiguecullen)
Always looks at his most dangerous when he is close to the square where he becomes a real handful.
Spent most of the trial process around midfield where he can cause problems with his direct running but if he does make it with Laois, you would imagine it will be at full forward.
Shane Bolger (Killeshin)
Bolger was centre back and captain of the Laois U-20 team this year.
He had a great year with Killeshin and showed glimpses of what he is capable of in this trial competition. Certainly worth a look.
Evan Lowry (Killeshin)
Injury curtailed Lowry’s involvement in the competition but he played very well in the two games he was fit for.
Represented Laois at U-20 level this year and his scoring power makes him a real option here.
Nigel Murphy (Emo)
There is a degree of surprise that Nigel Murphy has been overlooked at senior level for Laois in recent years.
He is extremely versatile and can play in several positions. It would be great to see him get a chance in 2019.
Barry Kelly (O’Dempsey’s)
Barry Kelly had a brilliant year for O’Dempsey’s and the 27-year-old showed well in the two trial games he played in.
He has simply blinding pace and a great ability to carry the ball – certainly one that will be an asset.
Brian Ging (The Heath)
Brian Ging is another one who had been in with Laois panels in the past and looks revitalized again this year.
He is small in stature but uses the ball efficiently and could be worth a punt.
Mark Barry (O’Dempsey’s)
This man is eligible to play U-20 for the next two years but like Finbarr Crowley, he may skip that grade altogether.
He oozes class and has a wand of a left foot. Scored 2-3 in the final of this and really caught the eye again.
Paddy O’Sullivan (Portarlington)
Like Nigel Murphy, it was surprising to many that Paddy O’Sullivan did not make the panel this year.
But in fairness to him, he had a good year for Port and showed very well in these games at either full or centre back.
Jack Owens (Emo)
Like Mark Barry above, Owens is eligible for the U-20 grade for the next two years.
But he enjoyed a good year with Emo and played very well in these trial games. Is in great physical condition for a young player too.
Matthew Finlay (O’Dempsey’s)
The top scorer in the SFC this year, Matthew Finlay is certainly worth a place in the Laois senior panel next year.
He is a brilliant free taker but is a real live wire from open play too.
Evin Keane (The Heath)
Evin Keane missed the final of the competition as he was away but he scored freely in all three of the games he played before then.
A tricky forward, Keane was part of the Laois panel under Mick Lillis and is certainly worth another look now.
Eoin George (Mountmellick)
Will be very disappointed at going off early through injury in the final but he can be pleased with how he played up until then.
His side were under pressure for a lot of the competition at the back but he coped very well with it.
Eoin Dunne (Rosenallis)
Still eligible for U-20 football next year but looks primed to make the step up to senior sometime soon.
A very good fielder of the ball and is also an incredible striker of a dead ball. He scored freely in all of the trial games and really stood out.
Rob Tyrrell (Camross)
The final player on the list is a young man from Camross who is also eligible for U-20 again next year.
Tyrell, like Dunne above, is a very good fielder who can also score.