The most important competition in club football in Laois gets underway this week as the senior championship begins.
There are a total of eight games to look forward to this week – one tonight, one on Friday, two on Saturday and four on Sunday.
The action begins tonight as two former Laois teammates clash on the sideline as Padraig Clancy’s Ballyroan-Abbey face Joe Higgins’ St Joseph’s at 7.15pm in MW Hire O’Moore Park.
Portlaoise are still the team to beat as they are going for their 13th title in the last 14 years and their fourth in a row.
Of the chasing pack, O’Dempsey’s and Portarlington look the next best but there really is very little between most of the teams.
All of the clubs involved have a number of impressive young players though who we reckon will make a mark this year.
Check them out below:
Arles-Kilcruise – Darragh Murphy
Arles-Kilcruise have introduced two young players to their senior panel this year – Aaron Moore and Darragh Murphy.
But we will go for the latter of the pair here. A big, athletic type, Murphy has been knocking around Laois underage development squads in recent years and looks set to develop into a fine footballer.
Arles-Killeen – Oisin Byrne
Arles-Killeen have been crying out for fresh players for a number of years here and they have a right good one in Oisin Byrne.
Son of Laois GAA treasurer Martin, Oisin is a top class forward who was on the Knockbeg team that reached the All-Ireland U-16 School’s final in 2019.
Ballyfin – Adam Connolly
Another one of the Connolly contingent is about to break onto the scene at adult level for Ballyfin.
Adam is a forward that carries a real scoring threat and is very capable from placed balls as well.
Ballylinan – Evan Phillips
Ballylinan face a tough opener against Portlaoise but the competition will open up for them after that.
Evan Philips has been close to the senior team in recent seasons but could make his starting breakthrough this year. A very honest player with a great engine.
Ballyroan-Abbey – Brian Whelan
Ballyroan-Abbey have reached the last two minor finals, winning the 2018 edition, and this man was central to all of that.
Cousin of Laois senior Diarmuid, Brian is an excellent free taker who is capable of getting goals too.
Courtwood – Paul O’Flynn
Courtwood have brought through some top quality young players in recent years and they have another two this year – Nathan Little and Paul O’Flynn.
Younger brother to Laois senior Sean, Paul was voted Laois Minor Footballer of the year in 2019 and is another exciting young forward.
Emo – Sean Greene
Emo have also added young talent to their panel this year in the form of Paddy Hosey, Tommy Keegan and Sean Greene.
2019 Laois minor captain Greene is the selection. Man of the match in the U-20 final too, Greene is a brilliant defender with bags of pace and he also uses the ball astutely too.
Graiguecullen – Craig Doyle
The first of two goalkeepers to make the last this year, Craig Doyle of Graiguecullen is up next.
With Danny Bolger in his way, the teenager will most likely operate at Junior B level this season. He has a brilliant kick-out and is a great shot stopper too – and would be more than capable if called upon.
Killeshin – Sean Dollard
The second goalkeeper comes from last year’s defeated finalists – Killeshin.
Sean Dollard was the keeper for Knockbeg on their run to the All-Ireland final in 2019 and he looks set to fill the void left by Shane Coakley following his retirement.
O’Dempsey’s – Fionn Holland
Holland transferred from The Heath to O’Dempsey’s last year and was hugely influential as they won the Junior A championship – playing against his former club in the semi final.
A flying wing back, he is more than capable of stepping up to senior level this year.
Portarlington – Rioghan Murphy
Like Courtwood, Portarlington are a club who continue to bring through a number of top quality players and up next is teenager Rioghan Murphy.
The 17-year-old may begin life this season with the Junior As – but don’t be surprised to see him step up. He is very quick, an excellent passer of the ball and can score too.
Portlaoise – Kevin Swayne
Over the years it has been very difficult for young Portlaoise players to break into the senior team in their first year but Damon Larkin broke that glass ceiling last year and we reckon this young man could do likewise.
Can operate at wing back, midfield or half forward – Kevin Swayne’s versatility makes him a very useful player who can help fill the voids left by Portlaoise retirements.
Rosenallis – Shane Farrell
Shane Farrell was called upon very early to make his Rosenallis senior hurling debut last weekend following an injury to Brian Fitzpatrick.
And don’t be surprised to see the youngster follow that up with another appearance this weekend against Ballyfin. He is very powerful and capable of scores too.
St Joseph’s – Josh O’Brien
A crippling knee injury robbed Josh O’Brien of his second year at minor for Laois but he came back with a bang in the U-20 championship for St Joseph’s last year and appears to be flying again.
Despite his age, Josh is very strong and if you give him any space at all, he will punish you on the scoreboard.
Stradbally – Eamonn Delaney
Stradbally have brought through four of last year’s Laois minor team – Conor Goode, Ciaran O’Neill, Darragh Carolan and Eamonn Delaney.
The selection could’ve gone to any of those but we’ve gone for Delaney. Son of former Laois footballer Eamon, Delaney is a keen defender who has great pace and power. Capable of popping up with a score too.
The Heath – Leon Holland
After making his mark at Junior A level last year, this should be the year that Leon Holland breaks onto the senior team.
The Heath have been crying out for scorers in recent years and this young man is certainly capable if given the opportunity.