LAOIS SHC 2017 - Your club-by-club guide to the teams competing for the Bob O'Keeffe Cup

Rory Delaney

Reporter:

Rory Delaney

Email:

rory@leinsterexpress.ie

LAOIS SHC 2017 - Your club-by-club guide to the teams competing for the Bob O'Keeffe Cup

Profiles of all eight clubs in the Laois SHC.

ABBEYLEIX

Manager: Donie Franks

Captain: Enda Rowland

One To Watch: Callum Mullen

Team News: Declan Phelan will miss the campaign with a cruciate ligament injury. Steven Reilly will miss the opening games with a hip problem. Rory McEvoy is recovering from a broken hand.

League Form: Started strongly in the league but form tailed off towards the end. Finished with three wins, three losses and one draw.

Prospects: Huge amount of potential in the club, and they have been getting closer to taking a big scalp. Yet to take down one of the big guns, and their season will be defined by what happens in that regard.

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BALLINAKILL GAELS

Manager: TBC

Captain: Brian O'Mara

One To Watch: Lir McDonald

Team News: The major concern for Ballinakill Gaels is the absence of Cha Dwyer, who is both injured, and away travelling at present.

League Form: Relegated from Division 1 after a campaign blighted by a lack of numbers and poor form. Getting Cha back fully fit and in the country is their first challenge, as their hopes will rest on his hamstrings.

Prospects: League form would suggest a struggle awaits in the championship. They gave Borris-Kilcotton a run for their money twice last year, but at present that prospect looks unlikely. Need to find form quickly.

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BORRIS-IN-OSSORY-KILCOTTON

Manager: Ronan Kelly

Captain: Matthew Whelan

One To Watch: Aaron Dunphy

Team News: Where to start. PJ Scully only has a few minutes of hurling under his belt, Joe Campion (hernia), Danny Fitzpatrick (shoulder), Stephen Phelan (ankle) and Paddy Whelan (hamstring) are all injured and Colm Stapleton is in America.

League Form: Despite missing so many players, they still finished second in the league, losing in the semi-final to Camross.

Prospects: If the injury situation abates, then they will take some stopping once again. If they remain understrength, however, they will struggle to retain their title.

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CAMROSS

Manager: Arien Delaney

Captains: Zane Keenan and Joe Phelan.

One To Watch: Mark Dowling.

Team News: All fairly positive on the injury front, as the only player they are missing from last year is full-back Malvin Moloney, who is in New Zealand.

League Form: Fairly good to be fair! Ran out winners of ACHL Division 1, beating Clough-Ballacolla 4-17 to 0-8 in the final.

Prospects: The most consistent team of the last five years, but with only one title to show for it. Arien Delaney has stayed on for another year so there will be another big push for the Bob O'Keeffe Cup. With a full squad and few weak areas, they'll be in the mix again.

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CASTLETOWN

Managers: Gavin Nolan and Darragh Conroy.

Captains: Gearoid Gaughan and Martin Phelan

One To Watch: Eoin Peters

Team News: The big loss for Castletown is Conor Phelan, who tore his cruciate ligament while on duty with Laois earlier this year. Ger Reddin had come back from Australia, but has since returned to the southern hemisphere.

League Form: Struggled at times, but eventually pulled away from trouble, finishing with three wins from seven games.

Prospects: After coming back up from the IHC, avoiding an immediate return is the first objective. An exciting young team, they will be targeting Abbeyleix in Round 1.

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CLOUGH-BALLACOLLA

Manager: Tommy Buggy

Captain: Canice Coonan

One To Watch: Brian Corby

Team News: Picky Maher is the big loss, to a cruciate ligament tear. Willie Dunphy missed the league final but they hope to have him back soon, while Ronan Broderick is back from his travels.

League Form: Were going brilliantly up to the final, where they were well-beaten by Camross. How they react to that loss will define their season, as the defeat raised some tough questions.

Prospects: Their hopes took a major blow when Picky Maher injured his knee on duty with Laois. A huge burden now falls on Willie Dunphy to spearhead their forward line.

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PORTLAOISE

Manager: Cheddar Plunkett

Captain: Cian Taylor

One To Watch: Aaron Bergin

Team News: In something of an injury crisis. Tommy Fitzgerald could miss the year with a knee injury, Tony Byrne has a problem with his shoulder, and Darragh Rigney, Seanie Culleton and Conor Dunne will all miss the first round.

League Form: Were at the bottom of the table for much of the year, but avoided relegation, finishing just above Ballinakill.

Prospects: Not good at the moment, especially with Tommy Fitzgerald's injury depriving them of some much-needed experience. It could be a tough road ahead to retain their SHC status for another year.

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RATHDOWNEY-ERRILL

Manager: Brian Young

Captain: Brian Campion

One To Watch: Paddy McCane

Team News: All fairly positive at the moment, with Jake Creagh the only injury concern, as he works his way back to fitness from a knee injury suffered last year.

League Form: Fairly underwhelming, considering they won it last year. With a large contingent in with Laois, they will be hoping to see a significant upturn in form when the championship kicks off.

Prospects: As always, you have to expect them to be in the reckoning. They have Mark Kavanagh back after he missed last year, and Eric Killeen and Jack Kelly will have benefited from a year with Laois. Potential winners for sure.