All the action in the Laois senior hurling championship kicks off this weekend with all eight teams set for action.
While only three of the four games are fixed, Laois GAA have confirmed that they will confirm the fixture for Clough Ballacolla v The Harps later this week.
All games will take place in O'Moore Park and they are spread across Thursday, Friday and Saturday as things stand.
The Covid-19 pandemic still looks like having a big role to play in the club championships across the County. With infection rates still high, a club can be struck down very easily and there will be an added bit of luck needed for all the clubs involved to ensure that they are not affected over the coming weeks.
Clough Ballacolla go into the 2021 championship as reigning champions but there are plenty of pretenders hot on their heels with others looking to put 2020 behind them and catch up to the leading pack.
The action kicks off on Thursday night with the meeting of Camross and Rathdowney-Errill while the groups and games and previewed below.
Rosenallis v Castletown – Saturday August 28th – O'Moore Park 5pm.
This is a massive and must win game for both sides. Make no mistake about it, when the fixtures came out, both would have earmarked this game as must win and an avenue to kickstart their campaign.
They had contrasting fortunes last year with Castletown staving off relegation while newcomers Rosenallis had a dream run that ended at the semi final stage.
This is a new year and a new challenge. Rosenallis now have to back it up while we are sure to see a hungry Castletown come back all guns blazing. Ryan Mullaney is the glue in the Castletown defence while Tadhg Cuddy had a good campaign for the Laois under 20's and has improved his game.
Rosenallis were the surprise package last year but that element of surprise is now gone. Fiachra C Fennell was one of the leading lights for Laois this year and overall, they are solid. Paddy Keating led the way in the scoring stakes last year and he will need to continue that into 2021. While they might not be one of the big guns in the championship, this game has the potential to be one of the closest games of the weekend.
Clough Ballacolla v The Harps – Details to be confirmed
A novel pairing in the opening round as 2020 senior champions meet the 2020 Premier Intermediate champions. It is a baptism of fire for The Harps but with massive momentum behind them, they will be relishing a cut off the best in the business from 2020.
Stephen Maher and Willie Dunphy really shone through for Clough Ballacolla in the 2020 final a few weeks back and will take serious watching while on the flipside of that, The Harps have one of the best defenders in the County in Podge Delaney.
James Duggan will surely be to the forefront of their plans while Michael Lanigan and Ciaran Comerford offer a serious punch in attack.
They have the tools to be a steady Senior force but whether or not they are ready to slay the likes of Clough Ballacolla remains to be seen. The reigning champions were deserving winners over Borris-Kilcotton in the delayed 2020 final and it's hard to pick out too many chinks in their armour.
Verdict: Clough Ballacolla
Camross v Rathdowney-Errill – Thursday August 26th – O-Moore Park 7.30pm
The championship kicks off on Thursday night with a clash of two of the heavyweights of Laois club hurling.
Both under achieved in 2020 and will no doubt have ambitions of getting to the top of the pile this year. However, neither will be looking past Thursday night as a loss in the opening game can be hard to recover from in a four team group.
While the opening round game may come to soon for Mark Kavanagh to feature in, Rathdowney-Errill are not short on firepower with the likes of Ross King, Paddy Purcell and Paddy McCane all free scoring forwards.
Camross have Mark Dowling Captaining the side this year and he was one of their few shining lights in a disappointing 2020.
It's hard to know where Camross are at. They won't be lacking in motivation to make ammends for last year and failing to reach the knockouts. They have quality all over the field but it remains to be seen if they can match the scoring power of their opponents.
There won't be any love lost between the sides either and in terms of a game to open a championship, it promises to be a lively affair.
Abbeyleix v Borris-Kilcotton – Saturday August 28th – O'Moore Park 7pm
If there is a game this weekend that could see an mild upset, it could be this clash on Saturday night. Borris-Kilcotton have had to deal with a County final loss in the weeks previous and it would have been hard for them to more or less get back down to brass tax.
In PJ Scully and Aaron Dunphy, they have two of the form forwards in the County. Scully has been in splendid form for club and County both from open play and frees while the towering Dunphy is one of these players who can be un-markable when on top form.
Abbeyleix though will fancy a cut off them. They are a middle of the bunch side with the potential to kick on and an opening round victory against the 2020 finalists would be a big statement of intent.
Enda Rowland is a huge asset to them in the goals. Frees in their own half are in his territory while the likes of Fionan Mahony and Liam Delaney are vital to them out a team that have a serious crop of young talent emerging. The sides met in a league semi final a few weeks with Borris-Kilcotton coming out on top.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.