Laois SHC Semi-final – Borris-Kilcotton v Clough-Ballacolla
In O’Moore Park at 2.30pm
Neighbours Clough-Ballacolla and Borris-Kilcotton meet in the first game in O’Moore Park today with both sides looking to book a final place following decent championship form to date.
Clough-Ballacolla topped a tough group containing champions Camross and Borris-Kilcotton with wins over both as well as Abbeyleix.
Borris-Kilcotton opened with a win over Camross and though they lost to Clough-Ballacolla on a scoreline of 2-17 to 1-16 the second day out they eased to wins over Abbeyleix and Ballinakill to reach their fifth semi-final in succession.
Since their maiden championship win in 2016 they have been beaten in consecutive semi-finals by Camross but recording a first championship win over their neighbours was significant in the opening round.
Ballacolla look set to be without both Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher and Lee Cleere, both of whom have been struck down by illness in recent weeks. It’s a massive blow but they haven’t a had a full hand to play from all year and have still come through the early stages unbeaten.
When they beat Borris-Kilcotton in the group stages they were without the suspended Willie Hyland as well as Ronan Broderick. They had no Hyland or John A Delaney for the opening game against Abbeyleix and Cleere also missed the win over Camross.
It’s obviously far from ideal for Clough-Ballacolla but they have a strong panel as it is.
Stephen Bergin is in flying form and Willie Dunphy and Willie Hyland can be expected to contribute to the scoring too.
Borris-Kilcotton, though, are the slightest of favourites. PJ Scully’s scoring power is immense and he’s hit tallies of 1-10, 1-10, 2-9 and 2-8 in the four games to date.
Scully’s in a forward line alongside the two Dunphys, Neil Foyle, Daire Quinlan and Joe Campion. There’s plenty of scoring power there.
In knockout hurling, the loss of Maher and Cleere will be more keenly felt than previously.
For that reason, Borris-Kilcotton should shade it.
Laois SHC Semi-final – Camross v Rathdowney-Errill
In O’Moore Park at 4pm
Camross’s bid for a third county title in a row faces a big test in O’Moore Park in the second game today when they face up to Rathdowney-Errill in a repeat of last year’s final.
Doing three-in-a-row for the first time since the 1970s would be a massive achievement for this group of Camross players who have also shown their consistency by winning three league titles in succession.
Today’s game comes exactly 12 months since last year’s controversial final between the two. The poisonous fallout from that had many repercussions and while the two teams will be keen to leave that aside, you can be sure that Alan Doheny and his team of officials will be on high alert.
Camross have an incredible recent record against Rathdowney-Errill and today will be looking to record an eighth successive win in the fixture.
As well as last year’s county final, they also won an early round game last year and in 2017, last year’s league final and three regular league fixtures.
That trend has to count for something even if there has been signs of slippage from Camross who have already lost twice in this championship – to Borris-Kilcotton and Clough-Ballacolla.
They had to dig themselves out of a hole in the quarter-final against Castletown and though they impressively did so in the second half of that game and really played like champions, they again failed to score a goal.
That’s three times in four games that they’ve gone goal-less this year, a notable fall off on recent seasons when you had to go back to the county final of 2015 for the last time they failed to get a goal.
Raising a green flag in games has been like oxygen to this team in recent seasons (think of the last two county finals in particular) and if they don’t get goals today it’s hard to see them outscoring Rathdowney-Errill.
Yet Rathdowney-Errill are coming into this cold. They won their three group games by a combined total of 58 points and weren’t in any way tasted.
The way the fixtures fell they were assured of their semi-final place after the second round and then had a three-week break to the dead rubber game against Portlaoise and then a four-week break to the semi-final.
It’s a flaw of the championship system that a team can go seven weeks without a meaningful game and while they’ve been on the challenge match circuit, Camross have had two decent challenges against Castletown and Clough-Ballacolla in the meantime.
The match-ups will be key and how Camross pair off against Mark Kavanagh, Paddy Purcell and Ross King will be interesting.
Camross are a well-balanced side that have become so used to winning big championship games in O’Moore Park. Rathdowney-Errill have suffered a series of disappointments since their last title in 2014.
But today represents a great opportunity for them and they should justify their favourite’s tag.