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Previewed and Profiled: First ever Premier Intermediate hurling championship set to be interesting affair

Brought to you in association with Telfords, Portlaoise and Mountrath

The Premier Intermediate championship gets underway tonight with a brand new name and plenty at stake.

The competition, which was previously called Senior A, is running on the same format as before – with one slight change.

In a bid to reduce the number of rounds from six to five, the quarter-final stage has been done away with.

So only two team will emerge from each group, instead of three which had previously been the case at higher grades.

Group A has relegated senior team Portlaoise, 2019 semi finalists Ballyfin and the side who won the relegation play off last year – Slieve Bloom.

Newly formed Colt-Shanahoe are the remaining side and that shapes up to be an intriguing group.

The other group contains defeated finalists for the last two years The Harps along with newly promoted Camross and Mountrath.

Clonaslee are there too after they earned a reprieve from relegation following the formation of Colt-Shanahoe.

The action begins tonight as Portlaoise face Ballyfin in Mountrath at 7.30pm.

Group A

Portlaoise

Manager: Derek Delaney

Selectors: Barry Fitzgerald, Paul Scanlon and Michael Boyhan

Main Man: Cian Taylor

Last Year: After winning the old Senior A in 2018, Portlaoise struggled to re-adapt to life at the senior grade. Defeats to Rathdowney-Errill, Ballinakill and Castletown sent them to a relegation final with Abbeyleix which they also lost.

Prospects: After relegation last year, they will be hoping to make an instant step up to senior again. Have a tough game against Ballyfin in Round 1 but if they win that they will have a great chance of getting out of the group.

Ballyfin

Manager: Seamus Holland

Selector: Brendan Connolly and Niall Keenan

Main Man: Gareth Dunphy

Last Year: Ballyfin reached the semi final last year where they were well beaten by The Harps – and had two players sent off. Eamon Duff will presumably be suspended for the Portlaoise game as he received a straight red.

Prospects: With Eanna Lyons out injured, it is hard to see them going much further than they did last year. Lose to Portlaoise in the first round, and they will be under real pressure to avoid going the other way.

Colt-Shanahoe

Manager: Jimmy Dunne

Selectors: Eoin Wallace and Shane Mullins

Main Man: James Keyes

Last Year: Shanahoe reached the quarter final last year while Colt were beaten by Rosenallis in the semi final.

Prospects: Without a league campaign, this new amalgamation is being thrown in at the deep end. There are doubts about the availability of Leigh Bergin and Chris Murray. They will have to beat Slieve Bloom in Round 1 to have any chance of emerging from the group.

Slieve Bloom

Manager: Barry Bowe

Selectors: Martin Lowry, Aidan Phelan and Benny Conroy

Main Man: Ben Conroy

Last Year: In their first year at this grade, Slieve Bloom lost all of their group games but managed to stay up after defeating Clonaslee in a relegation play off.

Prospects: Ben Conroy’s return from abroad is a massive boost and Slieve Bloom will be all the better for it. A semi final wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility if they make a winning start.

Group B

The Harps

Manager: Fintan Deegan

Selectors: Noel Delaney, Albert Townsend, David Shaughnessy, Liam Phelan

Main Man: Podge Delaney

Last Year: Another year, another final defeat. After Portlaoise in 2018, The Harps succumbed to Rosenallis last year.

Prospects: Fintan Deegan’s charges should be right in the mix and if he can blood some of last year’s minor winning team, maybe it will give them the extra push to go all the way this time.

Camross

Manager: Fran Dowling

Selectors: Tim Doran and Mossy Burke

Main Man: David Mortimer

Last Year: Were head an shoulders above the rest at the intermediate grade last year and trashed Borris-Kilcotton in the final to make the step up.

Prospects: The gradings list shows that Martin Burke, Tomas Burke and Niall Holmes have been re-graded to this level and if they remain here, they would be very strong. Survival will be the main aim but they could do even better than that.

Clonaslee

Manager: James Young

Selectors: John Joe Carroll and Andrew Rowney

Main Man: Liam Senior

Last Year: A very disappointing campaign ended with relegation at the hands of Slieve Bloom. But the formation of Colt-Shanahoe gave them a reprieve.

Prospects: They will surely be more competitive than last year and that first match against Mountrath is crucial in determining if they will be fighting relegation again or not.

Mountrath

Manager: PJ Murray

Selectors: Gerry Williams and Jason McDowell

Main Man: Jimmy Hyland

Last Year: Made it to the quarter final last year where they were well beaten by eventual champions Rosenallis.

Prospects: Like Clonaslee above, the outcome of that first game will determine a lot about the direction their season will take. Expect them to be closer to battling relegation than battling for the title though.

SEE ALSO – Previewed and Profiled: Wide open intermediate hurling championship set to commence