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