Last weekend saw the latter stages of two 2018 football competitions take place – although we now in 2019.
The delayed U-21 ‘A’ championship took a step closer to its conclusion while the ‘B’ grade came to an end.
St Joseph’s reached their fourth final in the last five years when they saw off Ballyroan-Abbey Gaels.
The Kellyville outfit, who won two titles in 2015 and 2016 alongside Barrowhouse, will face reigning champions Portarlington.
The lads in maroon were far too strong for Portlaoise in their semi final and will now look for two-in-a-row against St Joseph’s on Sunday in Stradbally.
Meanwhile, the ‘B’ final saw O’Dempsey’s take on The Heath and win by 12 points.
Our reporters were in all three venues and from those games, we bring you our first Team of the Week for 2019.
Check it out below:
1 – Shane Hogan (O’Dempsey’s)
13-a-side football is an extremely open form of the game with goals tending to fly in at both ends of the pitch due to the greater space available to forwards.
So any keeper who keeps a clean sheet in that environment must be good. Shane Hogan achieved this by pulling off a number of point blank saves for O’Dempsey’s in their final win.
2 – Cathal Bennett (Portarlington)
Cathal Bennett had a hectic 2018 and 2019 has got off to a good start. He was vice-captain of the Laois minor team which reached the Leinster minor final and captain of the Portarlington team who lost the Laois minor final to Ballyroan-Abbey after a replay.
He lined out in defence for the U-21s on Sunday and marauded forward at will while also managing to snuff out countless Portlaoise attacks.
3 – James Kelly (St Joseph’s)
James Kelly returned to the Laois panel this year for the O’Byrne Cup and he showed more promise in this game.
He marshalled the full back line excellently for St Joseph’s and will need to continue that form against Portarlington this weekend where he will likely face Colm Murphy.
4 – Eoin Carey (Portlaoise)
The Portlaoise defenders were under siege for much of the game against Portarlington but one player who coped well with the constant bombardment was Eoin Carey.
He made a string of fine blocks, particularly in the second half and stayed battling right to the end.
5 – Colin Slevin (Portarlington)
Colin Slevin’s first year at senior level was cut short when he picked up a nasty injury in the first round of the senior championship.
But he is fully recovered now and he got up and down the pitch extremely well and chipped in with two points from play himself.
6 – Robbie Pigott (Portarlington)
Pigott burst onto the inter-county scene last year following his now infamous spat with Carlow’s Brendan Murphy.
And he is now a rock in this Portarlington side as he holds the show together at centre back.
7 – Dean Brophy (St Joseph’s)
A lot of the good things that St Joseph’s did on Sunday came from the platform that their half back line gave them.
Dean Brophy stood out here as the Laois U-20 player defended and attacked brilliantly, scoring a crucial point.
8 – Eoin McCann (Portarlington)
Portarlington dominated the skies in their win over Portlaoise with Sean Byrne and Eoin McCann ruling midfield.
McCann also showed his running power for Portarlington’s second goal as he started the move with a pass to Jake Foster and then was there to palm home at the end of the move.
9 – Shane Nerney (O’Dempsey’s)
O’Dempsey’s had seven members of their team that played against Portlaoise in the 2018 county final on show in the U-21 ‘B’ final against The Heath.
One of those was Shane Nerney and despite playing most of his senior career in defence, he showed he is well capable of dominating a game from midfield as well.
10 – Mark Barry (O’Dempsey’s)
We chose Mark Barry as our footballer to watch out for in 2019 and he started the year in fine form.
He kicked 1-8 of O’Dempsey’s 4-8 in the final and his accuracy from frees is incredible.
11 – Dylan Doyle (St Joseph’s)
Dylan Doyle scored 2-1 in the semi final win and will be hoping his side can claim their third title in the last four years on Sunday.
However, he was shown a straight red card just before full time meaning he will be suspended for the showdown. His performance against Ballyroan-Abbey shows just how much of a loss he will be.
12 – Leon Holland (The Heath)
It was a difficult encounter for the Heath on Sunday against a powerful and physically superior O’Dempsey’s side.
But one player who stood out for them was Leon Holland. He finished as their top scorer on the day and landed a number of tricky frees.
13 – Enda McWey (Ballyroan-Abbey)
Ballyroan-Abbey’s victorious minor captain Enda McWey lined out at corner forward for the U-21s on Sunday in their loss to St Joseph’s.
He kicked two great points and popped up with a very late goal which made the closing moments very interesting but the Kellyville men held on.
14 – Colm Murphy (Portarlington)
Sharp-shooting Colm Murphy kicked 1-5 for Portarlington in their win and also set up a high volume of scores for his colleagues.
This will be a big year for him as he looks to get a place on the Laois senior team and he certainly has made a positive start.
15 – Peter Kealy (St Joseph’s)
Peter Kealy is a young man who has had a lot of his recent career blighted by various injuries.
He played the semi final win over Ballyroan-Abbey with a heavily strapped leg and limped off towards the end. His three points were invaluable and the Kellyville out will need him fit for the final.
SUBS OF THE WEEK
Seamus Farrelly (St Joseph’s)
Farrelly represented the Laois U-17s in 2018 and he came off the bench in the second half of St Joseph’s win on Sunday.
With Ballyroan coming back into the game, he landed a great point from 30 metres to quell their revival.
Lee Davis (Portlaoise)
A first half substitute, Davis came on into defence for Portlaoise in the defeat to Portarlington.
He competed well and did as good as he possibly could to snuff out attacks where possible.
Ciaran Carroll (Ballyroan-Abbey)
A half time substitute, Ciaran Carroll came on in midfield and helped Ballyroan-Abbey battle for possession far better in the second half.
Bernard Wheatley and Brian Daly had been comfortably on top until that point so the introduction of Carroll certainly made a difference.