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SFC Recap – Path to the semi finals, league form and team news ahead of weekend action

After more than 10 months of waiting, the 2020 Laois senior football championship semi finals will finally take place this weekend.

On Friday night in O’Moore Park, Emo and Graiguecullen meet in the first semi-final at 7.45pm

Emo beat Portlaoise and Graiguecullen got the better of Ballylinan on October 4 last year but the various Coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns as well as the 2021 inter-county season has meant that it’s only possible to resume these competitions now.

The second semi-final between Portarlington and Ballyfin takes place on Saturday evening at 7pm, also in O’Moore Park.

Ahead of the games, we take a look at how all four teams are shaping up:

EMO

Manager

John Strong

Path to the semi final 

R1 – Emo 1-16 Killeshin 2-5 – See Report Here
R2 – Emo 2-13 O’Dempsey’s 2-11 – See Report Here
QF – Emo 0-11 Portlaoise 1-6 – See Report Here

League Form 

Emo operated in Division 1B of the league this year and have continued their good form from last season by reaching the final.

Drawn in a group alongside Clonaslee, The Heath and Portlaoise’s second team – they lost to The Heath but defeated the other two to reach the semi finals.

Here, they enjoyed a nine point win over Killeshin to progress to the final against Arles-Killeen – which will be played when the 2020 championship is concluded.

Team News

Emo appear to have bolstered their squad from the one that reached the semi final last October.

Stephen Norton, Evan Joyce and Paddy Dunne have all featured for them in the league and certainly offer extra options for manager Strong.

Eoin Montague and Ross Meredith have played in the league but as they were minor in 2020, they are not eligible to play in the championship until the 2021 edition.

GRAIGUECULLEN 

Manager

Kevin Doogue

Path to the semi final 

R1 – Graiguecullen 1-16 Arles-Killeen 0-6 – See Report Here
R2 – Graiguecullen 0-11 The Heath 0-8 – See Report Here
QF – Graiguecullen 1-9 Ballylinan 1-6 – See Report Here

League form 

Graiguecullen operated in a higher division than Emo in the league – Division 1A – and they reached the semi finals.

Wins over Ballylinan and Ballyroan-Abbey saw them finish second in the group despite losing narrowly to St Joseph’s.

But they were well beaten by Portlaoise in the semi final – a 17 point defeat in the end.

Team News

The big injury concern for Graiguecullen is Laois senior footballer Brian Byrne. He picked up an injury playing for Graiguecullen in the early rounds of the league and did not feature after that.

Kian Lawlor and Conor Kelly have also featured prominently for them in the league but like Montague and Meredith above – they are ineligible as they were minor in 2020.

BALLYFIN

Manager

Killian Fitzpatrick

Path to the semi final 

R1 – Ballyfin 3-10 Rosenallis 2-12 – See Report Here
R2 – Ballyfin 2-11 Ballyroan-Abbey 2-8 – See Report Here
QF – Ballyfin 0-11 The Heath 0-9 – See Report Here

League form 

Ballyfin operate in Division 3A of the league. This is essentially the fourth tier but it hasn’t impacted upon their championship performances.

The Heath’s second team (Junior), Kilcavan (Junior) and The Rock (Intermediate) hardly serve as the ideal preparation for this weekend’s game but although Ballyfin made light work of the first two, they did draw with the latter.

This progressed them to the league semi final where they hammered another Junior team in the form of Barrowhouse and will now face Killeshin’s second team in the final after the 2020 championship ends.

Team News

James Finn and Jack Cleary are struggling with injury and are only rated ’50/50′ for the game.

But manager Fitzpatrick can now call on the services of 6’6 Laois hurler Eanna Lyons who has committed to the footballers this year.

PORTARLINGTON

Manager

Martin Murphy

Path to the semi final 

R1 – Portarlington 1-12 Stradbally 0-12 – See Report Here
R2 – Portlaoise 0-10 Portarlington 1-11 – See Report Here
QF – Portarlington 0-8 O’Dempsey’s 0-4 – See Report Here

League form 

Portarlington, who are the favourites, got off to a dreadful start in 2021 when they were hammered by Portlaoise in Round 1 of the league.

But they have recovered emphatically since. Courtwood and St Joseph’s were despatched ruthlessly to finish second while St Joseph’s suffered the same fate in the semi final. 

They will have a rematch with Portlaoise in the Division 1A league final following the conclusion of this competition.

Team News

They come into the final with more injury concerns than the rest of the teams put together.

In the semi final, Dean Foster and Alex Mohan limped off in the first half with Rioghan Murphy and Paddy O’Sullivan suffered the same fate in the second. Sean Byrne has yet to play a minute since Laois were knocked out of the championship by Westmeath last month too.

Of all those injuries, O’Sullivan’s looked the most serious and it would seem unlikely that he will feature this weekend.

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.