Following a hectic day of club football championship action on Saturday, it’s full on again today with three knockout games in O’Moore Park.
After The Heath got the better of Arles-Killeen yesterday evening, quarter-final places are up for grabs again with Ballyfin, Emo, Portarlington and Graiguecullen all awaiting in the last eight.
Here we look ahead to all of today’s games. The draw for the quarter-final will be made immediately after the third game.
Laois Shopping Centre SFC – Ballylinan v Ballyroan-Abbey
In MW Hire O’Moore Park at 1pm
The first game of the day in O’Moore Park sees Mick Lillis’s Ballylinan side come up against Padraig Clancy’s Ballyroan-Abbey.
Ballylinan lost to Portlaoise in their opening game before bouncing back with a win over Rosenallis while Ballyroan-Abbey got a late goal to beat St Joseph’s in the first game before then losing to Ballyfin the last day out.
You can expect this to be defensive and relatively low scoring as while Ballylinan have one of the top forwards in the county in Gary Walsh they have only managed 0-17 in their two games to date and Ballyroan have a very defensive, disciplined style with a young team and a top forward in Diarmuid Whelan.
It will be the first meeting of the sides since Ballyroan won narrowly in 2016 but the tables might be reversed on this occasion and Ballylinan can advance to a quarter-final.
Laois Shopping Centre SFC – Killeshin v O’Dempsey’s
In MW Hire O’Moore Park at 3pm
The last two beaten finalists meet in the second game of the afternoon and if scores could be hard come by the first game, then they could be a bit more plentiful here.
Both have been involved in two high-scoring games each. O’Dempsey’s have scored 7-11 and 2-11 in their two games to date and Killeshin hit 2-15 in their win over Courtwood.
Indeed there is a decent enough line of form to go on here with O’Dempsey’s proving far too strong for Courtwood, a side Killeshin struggled to put away, and Killeshin badly beaten by Emo, whom O’Dempsey’s went toe to toe with.
On that run of results O’Dempsey’s have to be favourites, though Killeshin did look to be much sharper against Courtwood and having manager Karl O’Dwyer back on board has to be a help too after missed their first game because of the Kildare lockdown.
And while Shane Bolger was a huge addition the last day, Brian Lowry will be back from suspension and the two Lowrys, Ross Bolger and Michael Doran are all going well in attack, O’Dempsey’s do seem to have a bit more.
Their defence have been porous but their forward line is as good as anything out there with the Finlays, Mark Barry, Conor Meredith and big Dan McCormack all capable of racking up big scores.
It’s that greater firepower that can get O’Dempsey’s through.
Laois Shopping Centre SFC – Portlaoise v St Joseph’s
In MW Hire O’Moore Park at 5pm
Since St Joseph’s knocked Portlaoise out of the championship at the quarter-final stage in a bizarre Tuesday afternoon game in 2003, the sides have met on six occasions with Portlaoise winning five of them and the other ending in a draw.
Some of those Portlaoise wins have been significant with winning margins of 15 points or more on three occasions.
Once the biggest rivalry in Laois club football, Portlaoise have really asserted their dominance since 2003 when that unusual fixture was arranged to facilitate Tom Kelly and Joe Higgins who were heading off to Australia on International Rules duty with Ireland.
Higgins is now the Joseph’s manager and Tom Kelly is a selector while another legend of Laois GAA in Mick Dempsey is also involved.
And this could be St Joseph’s best chance to beat Portlaoise, who could be on the ropes following their loss to Portarlington the last day out, one that sends them on the more circuitious route of the championship and into Round 3, a stage they have rarely needed to use over the years.
Portlaoise needed to show all their grit to win last year’s championship with their last three games all going down to the wire. They had only three points to spare on Joseph’s in the quarter-final, two over Portarlington in the semi-final and one on Killeshin in the final.
That mediocre form carried through to the Leinster club campaign where they needed penalties to beat St Pat’s of Wicklow and then were badly beaten by Eire Og of Carlow.
And they’ve had two very ordinary displays this year too, beating Ballylinan 1-8 to 0-5 and then losing 1-11 to 0-10 to Portarlington. The scores simply haven’t been coming as easy for them as in other years.
And they won’t come easy against Joseph’s either, who have a finely tuned defensive game. But they haven’t been overly impressive in their two games either, losing to Ballyroan-Abbey the first day before edging past Stradbally the last day.
They should come with a plan to contain Portlaoise and make life difficult for them. But the biggest challenge will be to get enough scores to win.
This one could come right down to the wire but there has to be a response in Portlaoise after the loss to Port and they should be able to do enough to get through here.