Home Gaelic Football Club Football Previewing this year’s Laois senior football championship

Previewing this year’s Laois senior football championship

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The race to win Jack Delaney Cup gets underway tonight with Portlaoise looking to win their third championship in a row.

Portlaoise have a new manager in the form of Niall Rigney and he’ll be hoping he can guide his side to their third straight championship.

The Laois senior championship begins with eight first-round ties taking place over the next seven days.

We have profiled all 16 competing teams, ahead of the start of the competition.

Portlaoise have won 12 out of the last 13 championships and come into the championship as the favourites once again.

Portarlington, O’Dempsey’s and Graiguecullen are the teams that could run Portlaoise close, but all will be revealed in the coming weeks.

We have profiled all 16 teams below:

ARLES-KILCRUISE

Manager: Lar Wall

Captain: Fran Egan

Main Man: Ross Munnelly

Team News: There are doubts about the availability of Colm Munnelly and Sean Meaney for their Round 1 clash with Courtwood but other than that, Kilcruise are set to be at full strength.

League Form: Arles-Kilcruise had a league campaign to forget as they finished bottom of Division 1A and will be playing in Divison 1B in their next league campaign.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Courtwood July 31

Prospects: The quality they possess will ensure they stay up,but they won’t have much of a say on the championship. Their wealth of experience might just get them over the line against Courtwood.

ARLES-KILLEEN

Manager: Hugh Kenny

Captain: Donie Brennan

Main Man: Donie Kingston

Team News: The return of Paul and Donie Kingston from their county exploits will be a helpful addition to this Arles Killeen side. Although we reckon Paul might be suspended for the first round having been sent off against O’Dempsey’s in Round 2 last year – but was available to play in the relegation semi final as that was deemed a different competition.

League Form: Without the services of the two Kingston brothers, Arles Killeen had a good league campaign only missing out on second place in Division 1B by two points.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Crettyard July 28

Prospects: Having received a favourable draw against Crettyard and with their vastly experienced group of players, they’ll make a good stab at the championship.

BALLYFIN

Manager: Killian Fitzpatrick

Captain: James Moore

Main Man: Séan Moore

Team News: Ciáran Fennelly is stateside for the summer so Ballyfin will be without his services for the upcoming championship.

League Form: Ballyfin won the Division 3 title having defeated The Rock after extra-time. They also won all their games in the league and that’ll give them confidence going into the championship.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Graiguecullen July 28

Prospects: Although they didn’t lose a game in the league, it’ll be a big step-up in class. They received a tough draw in the form of Graiguecullen and a first-round loss could lead them down the route of relegation trouble.

BALLYLINAN

Manager: Niall Carew

Captain: Jamie Farrell

Main Man: Cathail Dunne

Team News: Ballylinan will be without for the early rounds as star player Gary Walsh has gone to the states to play football for the summer.

League Form: Ballylinan won the Division 1B crown to make it their second Division 1B success in three years so it’ll give them momentum coming into the championship.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Portlaoise July 24

Prospects: Ballylinan are faced with taking on the reigning champions Portlaoise and without the services of Gary Walsh, it’ll be a tough ask for them. But after that, they should make the last eight at worst.

BALLYROAN-ABBEY

Manager: Padraig McMahon/ Liam Irwin

Captain: Scott Conroy

Main Man: Marty Scully

League Form: Off the back of their promotion in the last campaign, Ballyroan Abbey finished well above the relegation places in Division 1A.

Team News: Ballyroan come into the championship with a full hand to pick from and they’ll be hopeful that Martin Scully can continue in the same vein of form as he had with the Laois set-up.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Emo July 30

Prospects: The return of in-form Laois Senior Marty Scully and Laois U-20 captain Diarmuid Whelan will have their confidence sky-high and they are more than capable of beating Emo in round one.

COURTWOOD

Manager: Eddie Kinsella

Captain: Niall Donoher

Main Man: Alan Kinsella

Team News: Matthew Byron, Niall Dunne, Alan Kinsella and Sean O’Flynn are all returning for Courtwood having missed the league final defeat to Ballylinan due to Laois commitments.

League Form: Courtwood lost the Division 1B to Ballylinan having finished second in the table. They’ve earned back-to-back promotions and will play in Division 1A next year.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Arles-Kilcruise July 31

Prospects: They come into the championship as the previous year’s Intermediate champions and are playing in the Senior championship for the first time in 25 years. It’ll be youth vs experience in their game vs Arles Kilcruise but they’ll hope their lads can get over the line.

CRETTYARD

Manager: Peter Brennan

Captain: Cormac Murphy

Main Man: Evan O’Carroll

Team News: Crettyard will have Evan O’Carroll back in their squad following his great campaign with the Laois Seniors.

League Form: They were never in danger of being relegated or appearing in the top two of Division 2. They finished mid-table and were without many players due to travelling and they missed Evan O’Carroll who was involved with the seniors.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Arles Killeen July 28

Prospects: Crettyard have a chance in beating Arles Killeen, but with the scrapping of the gaels, they’ll be feeling the effects of not having the Spink lads when the championship starts.

EMO

Manager: Paul Lawlor

Captain: Shane Murphy

Main Man: Nigel Murphy

Team News: Evan Costello and Finbarr Crowley are currently out of the country and it remains to be seen whether the pair will be back come the time of the championship.

League Form: They missed out on promotion by two points in Division 1B and will feel that is disappointing as they had plenty of quality players at their disposal. Recently retired from inter-county, Darren Strong has played in almost every game to date.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Ballyroan Abbey July 30

Prospects: Having won the intermediate championship in 2017, they had a great run last year only losing out to the eventual finalists O’Dempsey’s in the quarter-final. Will be hoping to get back to that stage again.

GRAIGUECULLEN

Manager: Kevin Doogue

Captain: TBC

Main Man: Mark Timmons

Team News: Graiguecullen will be thankful that both Trevor Collins and Daniel O’Reilly are available for selection after they had been key men in the Laois Senior squad. They will also be hoping Mark Timmons recovers from the broken hand sustained playing for Laois.

League Form: Graiguecullen were without Timmons, Daniel O’Reilly and Trevor Collins, who were involved in the Laois Senior set-up. They finished mid-table and never set the league alight.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Ballyfin July 28

Prospects: With a familiar face in Kevin Doogue at the helm for this year’s campaign, Graiguecullen will be hoping to put on a strong showing and possibly reach their first final since 2011.

KILLESHIN

Manager: Maurice Brown

Captain: David Aston

Main Man: Stephen Attride

Team News: Evan Lowry, Adam Deering and Shane Bolger are all away so Killeshin will be without their services for the opening round of the championship.

League Form: Having started the league campaign poorly, Killeshin regrouped and put on strong performances in the last six games to finish sixth in the table.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Stradbally July 26

Prospects: Having reached the quarter-finals last year, they’ll be hoping that they can repeat this feat or even go one further. Their youthful side will be hoping to make a case for themselves in this year’s championship.

O’DEMPSEY’S

Manager: Eddie Kelly

Captain: Conor Meredith

Main Man: Matthew Finlay

Team News: The return of Mark Barry and Shane Nerney will be a welcomed addition to this O’Dempsey’s side.

League Form: O’Dempsey’s were almost immaculate in the league, finishing in first place. It’s still unclear whether the final against Portlaoise will be played, but all will be revealed in the coming days.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs St Joseph’s July 27

Prospects: O’Dempsey’s will be hopeful of reaching back-to-back senior championship finals, but they can’t look past a strong St Joseph’s side in the first round.

PORTLAOISE

Manager: Niall Rigney

Captain: David Seale

Main Man: Kieran Lillis

Team News: Cahir Healy and Brian Glynn are both out with injuries coming into the championship.

League Form: Without many key players, Portlaoise weren’t at full strength. They still had enough strength in depth to finish second and as aforementioned, it remains to be seen whether the league final will go ahead.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Ballylinan July 24

Prospects: Like every year, Portlaoise come into the championship as favourites to retain the Jack Delaney Cup. Anything else will be a big surprise.

PORTARLINGTON

Manager: Martin Murphy

Captain: Jason Moore

Main Man: Colm Murphy

Team News: Diarmuid Bennett is stateside so Portarlington will be without his services for the opening round of the championship. County men Colm Murphy, Robbie Piggott, Paddy O’Sullivan, Sean Byrne, Scott Osbourne, Alex Mohan, Ronan Coffey and Colin Slevin will all be back though.

League Form: Due to a host of injuries and a lot of players missing due to county commitments, Portarlington’s league form was up and down throughout but they finished comfortably in mid-table of Division 1A.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs The Heath July 27

Prospects: Portarlington are one of the main challengers to Portlaoise and in Martin Murphy they have a manager who has defeated the Town before.

ST JOSEPH’S

Manager: Dessie Brennan

Captain: TBC

Main Man: Michael Keogh

Team News: Brian Daly has a broken arm so is a doubt for the championship. James Doyle, Kevin Campion, Paddy Hickey and Brendan Hickey are all out of the country.

League Form: St Josephs finished third in Division 1A and were only three points off reaching a league final. Their youthful side was without Dean Brophy, Bernard Wheatley, Jack Lacey and Mikie Dempsey, who were all apart of the Laois U-20 squad.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs O’Dempsey’s July 27

Prospects: Having been drawn against last year’s finalists, O’Dempsey’s, St Joseph’s are one of the teams that could potentially run Portlaoise close.

STRADBALLY

Manager: Derek Conroy

Captain: Tom Shiel

Main Man: Colm Begley

League Form: Stradbally had a woeful start to the league as they were without many of their soccer stars. These lads returned and helped the 2016 Senior champions steer well clear of relegation in Division 1B

Team News: Jamie Kavanagh and Liam Knowles come into the championship with suspensions carrying over from last year. Joe Lacey and Justin Lalor are out through injury.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Killeshin July 26

Prospects: Senior champions in 2016, Stradbally have hit a bump in the road and they’ll be hoping they can reach the quarter finals, just as they did in 2018.

THE HEATH

Manager: Gordon McDonnell

Captain: Jimmy Nerney and Alan Whelan

Main Man: Evin Keane

Team News: Colin Nestor and Ciaran Booth are both living outside the country, but The Heath will be hopeful that Booth will be home for some part of the championship.

League Form: The Heath were relegated from Division 1A after one too many poor performances. They were without Denis Booth, who was a part of the Laois Senior panel and PJ Daly, who got to the Leinster final with the Laois U-20s.

Fixtures: Round 1 vs Portarlington July 27

Prospects: Only for the return of Evin Keane last year, The Heath would have probably been relegated. This year, it looks as if relegation could be on the cards, but their youthful players are top-quality and The Heath will be hoping that they’re firing on all cylinders.

SEE ALSO – All of this week’s Laois GAA fixtures as senior and intermediate football championships begin