Laois SFC Relegation Semi-final – Arles-Kilcruise v Crettyard
In O’Moore Park at 4.30pm
The senior football action gets underway in O’Moore Park on Saturday in a game that nobody ever wants to be in – a relegation playoff.
But after losing their first two games that’s where Arles-Kilcruise and Crettyard find themselves – out of the championship and fighting for their senior survival.
It’s only three years since the sides met in the championship quarter-final – though Crettyard had the aid of Spink then and were a Gaels side.
On that occasion Crettyard won by six points and Arles-Kilcruise have been in relegation bother twice now in the past three seasons and beaten in Round 3 last year.
Since winning intermediate in 2005 – and the Leinster title later that season – Crettyard have held their own at senior and have stayed well clear of relegation bother most seasons.
This year they are in a battle, however, and having been narrowly beaten by Arles-Killeen in their opening game, they then lost to Ballyfin by 14 points the last day – a Ballyfin side that were pre-championship relegation favourites.
Picking themselves up from a defeat like that will be difficult but they’ll have to produce the great spirit that often makes them so hard to beat to have a chance here.
Arles-Kilcruise have been without the injured Fran Egan for their three games to date and lost Paudge Conway to injury early on in their drawn game against Ballylinan and he didn’t feature at all in the replay.
Having either available would be a huge boost – being without either would be a big blow.
Neither side are going particularly well but Crettyard seem to be in a slightly deeper hole – struggling throughout Division 2 of the league and then falling to successive championship losses.
Their form is worse than Kilcruise’s it’s that form that sees us fancy Lar Wall’s men.
Story so far: Arles-Kilcruise lost 4-14 to 1-11 to Courtwood; then drew 3-9 to 2-12 with Ballylinan before losing the replay 2-6 to 0-9. Crettyard lost to Arles-Killeen by 1-13 to 1-11 and then to Ballyfin on a scoreline of 4-13 to 1-8.
Odds: Arles-Kilcruise 4/9; Crettyard 21/10; Draw 15/2.
Laois SFC Round 3 – Arles-Killeen v Ballyfin
In O’Moore Park at 6pm
Tradition here would point to an Arles-Killeen win but the form lines of this season suggest Ballyfin could have a right good chance of reaching a first ever Laois SFC quarter-final.
Since coming up senior in 2015, Ballyfin have defied the odds and expectation every year by winning one game and staying up.
They’ve done the same this year – hammering Crettyard the last day to ensure their senior status and a shot at making the last eight.
They’ve never managed to win two games in the one season at senior but this relatively novel fixture against Arles-Killeen side represents a great chance.
Killeen struggled past a Crettyard side in Round 1 that were later hammered by Ballyfin though Killeen’s performance against Killeshin the last day was one of their best in the last couple of years and they were only denied victory due to an injury time goal.
Can both teams reproduce that form from Round 2? Can the Ballyfin defence handle the Kingstons and Sean O’Shea? Can the Killeen defence manage the Moores?
What is Ballyfin’s scoring level – the 0-7 they got against Graiguecullen or the 4-13 they hit against Crettyard?
Ballyfin have youth, pace and energy; Arles-Killeen have experience and know-how.
Killeen are favourites but Ballyfin can cause a shock.
Story so far: Arles Killeen beat Crettyard 1-13 to 1-11 and lost to Killeshin 1-13 to 0-15. Ballyfin lost 2-11 to 0-7 to Graiguecullen and then beat Crettyard 4-13 to 1-8.
Odds: Arles-Killeen 1/3; Ballyfin 11/4: Draw 15/2
Laois SFC Round 3 – Courtwood v Ballylinan
In O’Moore Park at 7.30pm
The bookies have a tough time this weekend picking favourites in six Laois SFC games that could go either way.
Here they can’t decide and both sides are at even money with the draw at 13/2.
It’s only a little over a month ago when they met in the Division 1B league final, a game Ballylinan won comfortably but given that both sides lined out without their county U-20 players that can be discounted as a reliable gauge.
Ballylinan were also without Gary Walsh that night and after helping a star-studded Donegal Boston side championship success in the US last weekend.
He’s expected back tonight and while it’s hard to be at full pace after a summer stateside he will take watching and could form a deadly partnership with the in-form Cathal Dunne.
But on championship form, Courtwood deserve to be fancied here. They were within six points of Portlaoise when Ballylinan were beaten by 13 points by them despite having an extra man for more than half the game.
Courtwood beat Arles-Kilcruise by 12 points when Ballylinan needed a replay to get past them.
Long-serving talisman Niall Donoher is struggling with injury in what is bad timing on the club’s return to the senior grade after a 24-year absence. If his contribution is limited it will have an obvious impact.
But Courtwood’s graph is on the rise and there should be another win in them before the summer is out.
Story so far: Courtwood 4-14 Arles-Kilcruise 1-11; Courtwood 1-7 Portlaoise 1-13; Ballylinan 0-11 Portlaoise 2-18; Ballylinan 3-9 Arles-Kilcruise 2-12; Ballylinan 2-6 Arles-Kilcruise 0-9
Odds: Courtwood evens; Ballylinan evens; draw 13/2.