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Previewed and Profiled: Open contest expected as 2021 Laois IFC set to get underway

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The 2021 Laois IFC gets underway tonight as neighbours Timahoe and Park-Ratheniska clash in Stradbally.

There are then two games on Thursday evening before the round 1 action concludes on Saturday evening.

There are eight teams in the running here and the competition is ran on a knock-out basis with a back door.

Below, we assess the chances of each of the competing teams.

Arles-Kilcruise

Manager: Mick Byrne

Main Man: Ross Munnelly

Last Year: They were relegated to the Intermediate Championship after they lost to Courtwood in the relegation final.

Prospects: As the recently relegated team they will start the campaign as many people’s favourites to go straight back up.

They likes of O’Dempsey’s and Emo have managed this in the past which Mountmellick and Timahoe have shown what could happen to a team if they fail to bounce back at the first time of asking.

Kilcruise will certainly be in the running to do the former.

Crettyard

Manager: Sean Murphy

Main Man: Evan O’Carroll

Last Year: Following relegation in 2019, they were runners-up in the competition last year. They were defeated by Clonaslee in the final.

Prospects: Injuries to key players crippled them last season and they were caught on the hop in final. They will be keen to make that right this time as should be good enough to reach the final.

Mountmellick

Manager: Gordon Lalor

Main Man: Niall Mullen

Last Year: They reached the semi-final last year as they were beaten well by an Evan O’Carroll Crettyard side.

Prospects: Under new management and showed positive signs by reaching the Division 2 league final.

They have freshened up their team with new faces and they will be expected to push hard to win this championship.

O’Dempsey’s

Manager: Adrian Dunne

Main Man: Eoin Finlay

Last Year: They reached the Quarter-final last year and they were defeated by The Rock.

Prospects: Second teams are notoriously difficult to predict as their strength generally depends on how well their first team is going.

The first game against Portlaoise will be crucial and if they were to lose that they are more than likely to face a relegation battle.

Park-Ratheniska

Manager: Kieran Kelly

Main Man: Kieran Delaney

Last Year: While they had to wait almost ten months to play the final, Park-Ratheniska were crowned Junior ‘A’ champions a few months ago.

Prospects: Always difficult for a team who come up from Junior as the likes of Annanough, Barrowhouse and Kilcavan will testify after they short lived stays at this grade.

However, Park-Ratheniska are on an upward trajectory and should be well capable of competing at this level.

Portlaoise

Manager: Cha Fitzpatrick

Main Man: Ben Brennan

Last Year: They reached the Quarter-final last year where they were well beaten by Mountmellick.

Prospects: This team failed to complete the league and only played one game where they were heavily beaten by Emo.

If they lose that opening game against O’Dempsey’s they will be the favourites for the drop.

Timahoe

Manager: Sean Dempsey

Main Man: Damien O’Connor

Last Year: For the second successive season they ended in the relegation final – this time seeing off parish neighbours Annanough.

Prospects: They reached the Division 2 league semi-final but they were well beaten by senior opponents Rosenallis.

Their record has been poor over the last few years but they should yet again have enough to avoid the drop.

The Rock

Manager: Declan Mullaly

Main Man: Aaron Dowling

Last Year: They showed improvement last year to reach the semi-finals where they were heavily beaten by eventual winners Clonaslee.

Prospects: Possibly overachieved last year but will set out to reah a semi-final once again.

That may be beyond them but they should have plenty in hand to ensure they dont have to worry about going in the opposite direction.

FIXTURES 

Round 1 
Park-Ratheniska v Timahoe
Mountmellick v Arles-Kilcruise
The Rock v Crettyard
O’Dempsey’s v Portlaoise

SEE ALSO – The first Team of the Week as 2021 hurling championships get underway

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