Clubs under pressure for numbers as Senior Football Championship starts

Rory Delaney profiles the 16 teams which will battle it out for the Senior Football Championship title in 2012 as emigration bites hard for some clubs

Rory Delaney profiles the 16 teams which will battle it out for the Senior Football Championship title in 2012 as emigration bites hard for some clubs

Arles-Kilcruise

Team News: They have injury concerns over Patrick Conway, Diarmuid Carroll and Francis Egan, but are hopeful all three will be fit to start when the championship gets underway. Sean Meaney, who played full-back for them last year, is in Australia.

Prospects: As ever, they are expected to make the last four at least. Very well organised team who know each other well and play to their considerable strengths, they will lead the challenge to Portlaoise once again.

League Form: Made it to the semi-finals

Last Year: Beaten in the quarter-finals

Last Title: 2003

Manager: Jim Maguire

Captain: Chris Conway

One to Watch: Eoin Stynes

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Arles-Killeen

Team News: Donie Kingston is the major absentee, as he is currently in Boston and unlikely to return in time for the start of the championship. Defender Brian Kennedy is also a doubt due to injury.

Prospects: Defensive frailties and under achievement continue to plague the other Arles based side. Plenty of talent but still short one or two players to push on and make a final.

League Form: Beaten semi-finalists

Last Year: Beaten semi-finalists

Last Title: Yet to win a SFC title

Manager: Pat Ryan

Captain: Not yet confirmed

One to Watch: Shane Byrne

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Ballylinan

Team News: Ballylinan have been hit with some high profile departues, with Ciaran Farrell in Australia and Jamie Farrell in America. Richie Ryan has also transferred to St Laurence’s in Kildare.

Prospects: League form was a worry, but with Gary Walsh back that should give them a boost. He provides the bulk of their scores, and they will need him firing on all cylinders to make an impression.

League Form: Relegated from Division 1

Last Year: Beaten in the quarter-finals

Last Title: Yet to win an SFC title

Manager: James Loughman

Captain: Gary Walsh

One to Watch: Alan Farrell

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Clonaslee-St Manman’s

Team News: Clonaslee St Manaman’s have been hit hard with emigration losing John Rowney, Rory Conroy, Cathal Burke and Eoin Gorman from their senior panel from last year

Prospects: Last year probably summarised them best - annihilated by O’Dempsey’s and yet finished strong to avoid relegation. Should be in relegation trouble again, but always capable of raising themselves in a once-off game

League Form: Finished mid-table in Division 2

Last Year: Beat Emo in the relegation playoff

Last Title: Yet to win an SFC title

Manager: Conor Gorman

Captain: Edward Conroy

One to Watch: John Rigney

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Crettyard

Team News: Crettyard will be without Adrian Byrne this year but apart from that expect to have a clean bill of health for their opening game

Prospects: Couldn’t have gotten a more difficult opening game, but they are good enough to bounce back and pick up a few wins. Quarter-finals would be a good target for them

League Form: Finished in mid table

Last Year: Beaten in Round 3

Last Title: Yet to win an SFC title

Manager: Willie Quinlan

Captain: Pat Reilly

One to Watch: Jimmy Brennan

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Graiguecullen

Team News: Last year’s beaten finalists have to contend with a number of players missing from the 2011 squad, chief among them Barry Brennan, who has now moved to Wexford. Darryl Hayden is in the USA and Ross Alcock is in the UK, while Terence Haughney and Rory Hurley are both injured.

Prospects: They made great strides forward over the last couple of years, but 2012 will determine whether they can maintain that progress. A strong team no doubt, but they will need to improve again if they are to make another final.

League Form: Beaten in a playoff for a semi-final place

Last Year: Beaten finalists

Last Title: 1965

Manager: Martin Kelly

Captain: Not yet confirmed

One to Watch: Danny Alsybury

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Killeshin

Team News: Killeshin will likely be the youngest team in the Championship with an average age of around 22. Their oldest player is just 28 while a number of minors will also be on the panel

Prospects: A tough opener against Arles-Kilcruise, but after the last couple of years they won’t be afraid of anyone. Have developed a team with a winning habit and they should make the last eight at least.

League Form: Beaten in the Division 2 final

Last Year: Won the Laois IFC

Last Title: Yet to win an SFC title

Manager: Mick Moore

Captain: Arnie Mahoe

One to Watch: Eoin Lowry

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Mountmellick

Team News: Sean George has transferred back to Dublin, while Matthew Whelan is no longer available to them as he now has to play with Borris-in-Ossory. Ger Reddin and Diarmuid O’Dlaherty are in Australia, and Niall Gorman and Shane Conlon are injury conerns

Prospects: Have been really hit hard by the loss of players due to emigration and transfers. They threatened the business end of the championship for a few years but survival seems to be the priority now.

League Form: Finished mid-table in Division 2

Last Year: Beat Emo in the relegation semi-final

Last Title: Yet to win an SFC title

Manager: Nicky Egan

Captain: Michael Lalor

One to Watch: Eoin George

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O’Dempsey’s

Team News: Emigration has hit them hard. Rory Bracken, Barry Kelly, Michael Finlay, Tomas Finlay and Conor Meredith, who featured at times last year, are all abroad, while Bryan Meredith is will be available for the first game but is expected to leave the country after that. They are okay on the injury front but have been hit hard with the number of players missing.

Prospects: Generally seen as underachievers, given the talent they have produced over the last ten or 15 years. They have the players to make the last eight at least, but whether they deliver on that remains to be seen. Finding consistency is the key for them.

League Form: Finished in the bottom half of Division 1

Last Year: Beaten quarter-finalists

Last Title: 1980

Manager: Eddie Kelly

Captain: Peter O’Leary

One to Watch: Bobby Sweeney

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Portarlington

Team News: Sean Michael Manly is in America, while Peter Turley is also missing from last year’s championship team. Colin Murphy and Kevin McGrath also likely to miss the opening round due to injury, with one or two other niggles affecting the camp too.

Prospects: Things certainly looked up for Port on the back of an impressive Division 2 campaign which saw them win all of their games. Lost the semi-final to Ballyroan Abbey, which again raises questions about whether they can produce it when it matters most. A young side with plenty to offer though.

League Form: Made the Division 2 semi-finals

Last Year: Beat Clonaslee in relegation semi-final

Last Title: 2001

Manager: Dermot Murphy

Captain: Padraig Coffey

One to Watch: Evan Lyons

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Portlaoise

Team News: Cahir Healy and Brian Glynn will continue to ‘commute’ from the UK this year. A number of players who spent the summer in America are expected to return in time for the first round. On the injury front David Browne and Brian ‘Bruno’ McCormack have missed recent games.

Prospects: It’s hard to see anyone stopping the Portlaoise juggernaut once again this year. They will say they are taking things one game at a time, but provincial success is probably on their minds given how close they to making the final last year.

League Form: Division 1 champions

Last Year: Won the SFC

Last Title: 2011

Manager: Mick Lillis and Mark Kavanagh

Captain: Brian Mulligan (TBC)

One to Watch: Paul Cotter

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St Joseph’s

Team News: One of the worst hit teams with injury and emigration in the county. Gary Rowan (cruciate) and Aaron Moore (broken wrist) are out injured, while Paddy Hickey, Brendan Hickey, Ian Dempsey and Jack Dempsey are all in Australia, while James Doyle is currently in the USA.

Prospects: Like a lot of teams, really struggling due to the loss of players. No longer the powerhouse they once were, but a new generation of players are getting their chance now. Making the quarter-finals would be a huge boost given the players they have lost, and Joe Higgins return, albeit somewhat curtailed due to past injuries, is a huge boost to a young team that will need his experience.

League Form: Just avoided relegation in their last game

Last Year: Beaten quarter-finalists

Last Title: 2000

Manager: Paul Campion

Captain: David Brennan

One to Watch: Adam Campion

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Stradbally

Team News: Stradbally have been hit hard by emigration losing a number of players. Kieran Delaney, Robbie Kelly, Dan Dunne and Willie Delaney are amongst the absentees as the club tries to prepare for the championship.

Prospects: With their county players back they should prove more of a challenge than they were in the league. Always a good championship team, and with Colm Kelly in good form, they should push on to the latter stages.

League Form: Finished in the bottom half of the table

Last Year: Beaten semi-finalists

Last Title: 2005

Manager: Eamon Delaney

Captain: Darren Maher

One to Watch: Danny Kelly

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The Heath

Team News: They have lost Daithi Carroll and Marty Dowling, both recent Laois panellists, to emigration, while Ciaran Booth, Colin Nestor and Chris Bergin have struggled with injury already this year.

Prospects: League form has been worrying, so how they bounce back from that is the key. Tricky opening game against Arles-Killeen, but they almost beat them last year so should hold no fear of Pat Ryan’s men. Avoiding a relegation battle will be key for them.

League Form: Finished bottom of Division 1

Last Year: Beaten in Round 3

Last Title: 1993

Manager: Pat Delaney

Captain: Tony Connolly

One to Watch: Shane Carroll

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The Rock

Team News: Diarmuid Dooley is ruled out with injury, with Ben and Keith Storey are abroad and will not be available for the first round. Bryan Croke is also ruled out as he is playing rugby in New Zealand.

Prospects: Like a lot of teams in the SFC, just avoiding a relegation battle will be half way to a successful season. Were unlucky not to beat Arles-Kilcruise last year so the potential for upsets is still with them.

League Form: Beaten semi-finalists in Division 2

Last Year: Beaten in Round 3

Last Title: Yet to win an SFC title

Manager: Pat Murphy

Captain: Diarmuid Dooley

One to Watch: Conor Allen

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Timahoe

Team News: While Timahoe have not been hit as hard as some with emigration, they will still be without Donnacha Culliton and Martin O’Connor. Evan O’Connor is a long term absentee with a cruciate ligament injury.

Prospects: Showed some promising early signs in the league, and maintained some form through to end of the ACFL Division 1. All four of their county players have been in great form for Laois, so their return will push them on again. Could be potential semi-finalists.

League Form: Finished in a tie for fourth place

Last Year: Beaten in Round 3

Last Title: 1969

Manager: Liam Ramsbottom

Captain: Martin Bergin

One to Watch: Joe O’Connor