On Monday night just gone, the draws for the Laois senior football championship semi-finals were made pitting favourites Portarlington against Ballyfin and Emo against Graiguecullen.
It had been over seven weeks since the quarter-finals had been played and god knows how long it will be until the semi-finals will be played.
The one thing we do know is that the games won’t be before Christmas, meaning the Laois senior football final won’t be completed in the calendar year for the first time since …
As things stand the teams can’t even collectively train due to the current restrictions though they are in contact via WhatsApp and Zoom and mostly following training programmes set out by their respective managements.
With Portlaoise out, having been beat first by Portarlington and then by Emo, the competition has been blown wide open.
Whenever it is finally played, one thing is certain: one club is going to going to end a famine.
Portarlington – last title in 2001
Though did sit joint third – with Graiguecullen – on the Laois SFC roll of honour with 12 titles, Portarlington have experienced famines before.
The last time they won the championship was in 2001 and they haven’t even been in a final since. Indeed they went 16 years without being even in a semi-final prior to 2017.
They have gone in spurts like this previously over the years.
When they won the 1988 final for the first time, it ended a 29-year wait, and that final was the first appearance since their neighbours O’Dempsey’s beat them in the ’63 decider.
The 1950s had been a hugely successful era for them with titles in in 1954, 1955 and 1959 but their triumph in 1954 was their first in 31 years and even then their 1951 final appearance was their first in 19 years.
This will be their third semi-final in four years and as things stand they’re the outright favourites.
2020 Odds: 6/5
Graiguecullen – last title in 1965
Graiguecullen’s last success was in 1965, something the club marked with an occasion in their clubhouse in the winter of 2015.
They have made six final appearances in the years since, losing to Emo in 1972, St Joseph’s in 1975, Portlaoise after a replay in 1976, O’Dempsey’s in 1980, Portlaoise in 1981 and again in 2011 in what was their last county final outing.
They briefly lost their long-held senior status in 2007 when they were relegated to intermediate though they bounced straight back up and have generally been quite consistent in reaching the latter stages.
Like Portarlington, this will be their third semi-final appearance in four years.
2020 Odds: 7/2
Emo – last success in 1972
Emo’s one and only Laois county final success was in 1972 when they got the better of Graiguecullen.
They were beaten after a replay two years later by neighbours The Heath and have since gone on to lose finals in every decade.
They were beaten by Portlaoise in 1986, 2004 and 2015 and by St Joseph’s in 1994.
On two occasions in the past decade they have suffered relegation but bounced back immediately in 2012 and 2017.
2020 Odds: 9/4
Ballyfin – have never been in a Laois SFC final
Not only have Ballyfin never won a Laois SFC title, they have never even been in the final.
But they’re in a second semi-final in succession and will be keen to defy their outsiders tags when they meet Portarlington in what will be the first ever senior championship clash between the sides.
Ballyfin only came up to senior for the first time after winning the intermediate title in 2014 and were in the relegation final as recently as 2018.
The club’s football success has been limited over the years and includes that intermediate triumph in 2014 and Junior ‘A’ success in 1995 and 2010.
2020 Odds: 6/1