The group stages of the top three grades in the Laois hurling championship will come to a conclusion today when the relegation playoff and semi-final pairings will be confirmed.
There are two games down for decision in each of the Senior, Premier Intermediate and Intermediate competitions – though there’s more to play for in some games than in others.
We look ahead to all six games here.
Laois Shopping Centre SHC – Ballinakill v Camross
In MW Hire O’Moore Park at 1.30pm
Rosenallis’s latest impressive win – this time over Borris-Kilcotton – has ended Ballinakill’s slim chances of making the semi-finals.
But this game was always more about relegation than progress and the losers of this game will face Castletown in the playoff game in two weeks time to decide who drops to the Premier Intermediate grade for 2021.
Ballinakill looked better than Rosenallis for long stages of their opening round game but were caught late on and it finished a draw. They were then routed by Borris-Kilcotton two weeks ago.
Camross have lost both games and when you factor in last year’s semi-final loss to Rathdowney-Errill it means they have now been defeated in three championship games on the trot – that hasn’t happened too often before.
Ballinakill will have a plan and should be well structured but there has to be a kickback in Camross.
A draw would be enough to save Ballinakill but Camross should have enough.
Laois Shopping Centre SHC – Rathdowney-Errill v Abbeyleix
In MW Hire O’Moore Park at 3.30pm
Following Abbeyleix’s win over Castletown in the opening round, they left themselves with two chances to beat one of the bigger teams to make a semi-final.
They were badly beaten by Clough-Ballacolla so their championship hopes rest on what is essentially a straight knockout game against champions Rathdowney-Errill.
It’s hard to see an upset and Rathdowney-Errill will want to build on their dominant win over Castletown the first day out ahead of semi-final in two weeks.
Laois Shopping Centre Premier IHC – Portlaoise v Slieve Bloom
In Borris-in-Ossory at 12.30pm
Both of these sides are already through but will be keen to finish the group stages with a third win.
The losers will also have to face perennial championship favourites The Harps in the semi-final.
Portlaoise seem to be well focused this year under manager Derek Delaney and while Slieve Bloom have shown great improvement, Portlaoise, even without Cahir Healy, will be their toughest test to date.
Laois Shopping Centre Premier IHC – Colt-Shanahoe v Ballyfin
In Mountrath at 12.30pm
Two teams that have lost both games so far have a chance to end their season on a relative high.
And a win here would mean they can’t be relegated. Both sides improved for Round 2 and will be keen to continue that upward curve.
Ballyfin might just have enough to pull through this one – with Colt-Shanahoe then in last chance saloon against Mountrath in two weeks time.
Verdict – Ballyfin
Laois Shopping Centre IHC – Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe v Borris-Kilcotton
In Durrow at 12.30pm
Arguably the most interesting action today will be in the third tier intermediate grade where all four teams have a chance of making the semi-finals.
Despite not winning a game so far, last year’s junior champions Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe could sneak into the semi-finals if they were to beat Borris-Kilcotton in Durrow and Mountmellick beat Clough-Ballacolla in Trumera.
But it’s a big ask. Borris-Kilcotton aren’t as strong as they were a year ago when they got to this final but you’d still have to fancy them to win here.
Laois Shopping Centre IHC – Mountmellick v Clough-Ballacolla
In Trumera at 12.30pm
Despite winning their two games to date Mountmellick aren’t assured of a place in the semi-finals.
A draw would send them through to the semi-finals for the second year running but a loss would leave them in danger if Borris-Kilcotton beat Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe in the other game. If that’s the way it transpires it will come down to scoring difference and it’s all fairly tight at the moment.
Clough-Ballacolla lost their opening game to Borris-Kilcotton by a point but scored four goals in their win over Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe.
They have plenty of senior experience in their ranks and they absolutely have to win or they’re out.
This group looks like it will come down to very fine margins.