PROFILES - Your Club-by-Club guide to all 16 teams in the 2018 Laois SFC

Rory Delaney

Reporter:

Rory Delaney

Email:

rory@leinsterexpress.ie

PROFILES - Your Club-by-Club guide to all 16 teams in the 2018 Laois SFC

Conor Boyle lifts the trophy after last year's final win over Ballylinan. Pic: Alf Harvey.

With the Laois SFC getting under way this Wednesday night, we take a look at all sixteen clubs lining out in this year's competition.

---

ARLES-KILCRUISE

Manager: Larry Wall

Captain: Fran Egan

Team News: No major injury worries for Arles-Kilcruise ahead of the start of the championship. They picked up a couple of new players in PJ Lawlor and Kevin O'Neill as well, and have suffered no retirements from last year either.

League Form: Topped Division 1B, losing only two games, but failed to bring that form into the final as they were beaten by Ballyroan Abbey on the back of a poor display.

Prospects: Picking up a couple of new players is a big bonus for them, as they are a small club. A few top class players will always give them a chance, but just avoiding a relegation playoff would mark progress from last season.

---

 ARLES-KILLEEN 

Manager: Gay Campbell

Captain: TBC

Team News: They have no major injury worries ahead of the start of the championship, with Shane Byrne the only one due to miss out as he is out of the country.

League Form: An underwhelming effort after getting relegated last year, they won six of 14 games. Having been without the Kingstons however, they will be expecting a significant increase in performance in the coming weeks.

Prospects: Quarter-finalists last year, they were probably a little unlucky to lose out to Portarlington. With Donie and Paul Kingston they have two hugely influential players, but not enough overall quality to threaten the title they crave so much.

---

BALLYFIN GAELS

Manager: Jason Horan & Stephen Duff

Captains: Robbie Foran & Ciaran Fingleton

Team News: Sean Moore has spent the summer in America and will miss the early rounds, while James Finn has also been abroad, but is expected to be back to play his part.

League Form: On league form, they are the lowest ranked team in the SFC this year, having won only three games in ACFL Division 2, losing seven, and finishing level on points with Annanough, Kilcavan and Graigue's second team.

Prospects: Not good, with Portlaoise up first. They have a remarkable recent record in causing an upset though. It won't happen in Round 1, but don't rule it out after that.

---

BALLYLINAN

Manager: Paul Julian

Captain: Gary Walsh

Team News: Cathail Dunne and Andy McEvoy have spent the summer in America, so will miss the opening round, both big losses after two impressive seasons from them last year.

League Form: Pretty disastrous in Division 1A. They lost heavily to O'Dempsey's in the opener and it snowballed from there. Finished bottom, failing to win a game and eventually conceded their last four games after suffering a few heavy defeats.

Prospects: After their breakthrough last year, they appear to have regressed significantly. A welcome return for their county players will give them a timely boost, but hard to see them making another final.

---

BALLYROAN ABBEY

Managers: Liam Irwin, Noel Delaney, Padraig McMahon

Captain: Aaron Carroll

Team News: Will be missing Mark Carroll from last year, as he is away travelling. MJ Tierney missed the league final recently as well, and they'll be hoping to have him back for the game with Portarlington.

League Form: As good as could be expected really. They finished second in Division 1B, but turned in fine performance in the final to see off table-toppers Arles-Kilcruise.

Prospects: Huge work at underage level means a breakthrough will come eventually for Ballyroan Abbey. They'll give Port a right game of it in Round 1, but it's hard to see them progressing beyond a quarter-final at best, at the moment.

---

CLONASLEE ST MANMAN'S GAELS

Manager: Jer Glavin

Captain: TBC

Team News: No major injury concerns at the moment for Clonaslee Gaels, and they'll be hoping youngsters like Ryan Kilroe and Jack Owens can make the step up and strengthen the senior squad.

League Form: A decent run in Division 2 saw Clonaslee make a semi-final, while in the same competition, Annanough won just three of their ten games and finished joint bottom of the league.

Prospects: Survival is the name of the game here. The most unlikely Gaels team for some time, it's hard to see a long-term future for this setup, but for now just staying at senior level is the sum of their ambitions. One win, and they'll achieve it.

---

CRETTYARD GAELS

Manager: Peter Brennan

Captain: Sean O'Shea

Team News: Jimmy Brennan is likely to miss out due to ongoing problems with a back injury. Ciaran Hosey has retired, or at least tried to, and may still get the call! Cormac Phelan is in Canada for the summer.

League Form: A record of just four wins and one draw in Division 1B saw them finish in the bottom two and get relegated to Division 2. Not ideal.

Prospects: Evan O'Carroll's return will be crucial, and he was in good form in Laois' most recent games. After their semi-final appearance in 2016 they haven't kicked on yet, despite having some good, solid players. Could be potential quarter-finalists if they get their act together.

---

EMO

Manager: Paul Lawlor

Captain: TBC

Team News: It's all fairly positive news coming out of the camp for Emo at the moment, with no major injury worries and no one lost to emigration or travel. Added to that, young trio Niall Gorman, Jack Owens and Thomas Scully have made the step up from underage level.

League Form: A perfectly 'middle of the road' campaign in Division 1B, with seven wins and seven losses, which left them in mid-table.

Prospects: As a side which took Portlaoise to a replay in 2015 and then got relegated in 2016, you just don't know which Emo will turn up. A tricky opening game against Arles-Killeen will test them, but should at least avoid a relegation battle.

---

GRAIGUECULLEN

Manager: Padraig Clancy

Captains: Chris Hurley and Jimmy Bolton.

Team News: The bad news for Graigue is that both Ambrose Doran and Chris Hurley are out with ankle injuries, with the former having already had surgery this year. Danny O'Reilly's return date has not been confirmed yet either.

League Form: Left sweating on Stradbally's final round game against The Heath to see whether they would avoid relegation. They did, by just one point.

Prospects: A real sleeping giant of Laois football, Padraig Clancy will be hoping to awaken them once again this year. A big squad, they'll need a big year from Aaron Forbes if they want to make an impression.

---

KILLESHIN

Manager: Maurice Brown

Captain: Shane Coakley

Team News: Shane Bolger is struggling with a shoulder injury, while Damien Lowry has retired. Stephen Attride is another concern after his head injury against Carlow, but could still make the opener with Clonaslee Gaels. A few good minors like Míchael Doran pushing for a start.

League Form: A good effort in Division 1B, they came third in the league with seven wins and two draws from their 14 games.

Prospects: A lot will depend on getting Stephen Attride back and if Eoin Lowry hits form. They are capable of some impressive football and results, but the one thing they have struggled with is consistency. If a few more players step up to the plate, they could cause a shock or two.

---

O'DEMPSEY'S

Manager: Pat Daly

Captain: Conor Meredith

Team News: Stephen O'Leary and Rory Bracken missed the recent league final win over St Joseph's and are doubts for the championship, although the emergence of Mark Barry and Tom Kelly is a timely boost for them.

League Form: Couldn't be better really, as they retained the ACFL Division 1A title, beating St Joseph's in the final once again.

Prospects: Twice league champions, we'll be looking to them to carry the challenge to Portlaoise. No real county commitments have meant they have been working with more or less a full hand for the league, so can they find another gear and kick on for the championship?

---

PORTARLINGTON

Manager: Noel Coss

Captain: David Murphy

Team News: Colm Murphy, their top scorer last year, and Robbie Pigott, have spent the summer in America. On the plus side, Adam Ryan has transferred back to the club and is playing impressive stuff for them so far.

League Form: Finished up third in the table in Division 1A, just missing out on a place in the final. Not bad considering they were missing Colm Murphy, who was central to their progress last year.

Prospects: The great entertainers last year, they will have a go at teams, which is a welcome sight. Probably too loose at the back to challenge Portlaoise, but they should be in the knockout stages.

---

PORTLAOISE

Manager: Malachy McNulty

Captain: Paul Cahillane

Team News: Frank Flanagan and John Kavanagh spent the summer in America, but they have a raft of intercounty players to welcome back into the fold. Gary Saunders looks a good young prospect in defence as well.

League Form: Doled out some absolute hammerings, as Stradbally and Ballylinan can attest, but tailed off late in the competition, just as they did last year. They won't be too worried about that.

Prospects: It'll be amazing if they don't win it, and it's hard to see anyone getting that close to them in all honesty. Their squad grows every year, and there is huge competition for places.

---

ST JOSEPH'S

Manager: Dessie Brennan

Captain: Tom Dunne

Team News: Sadly missing the wonderful Liam Kealy (RIP) from last year. Tom Kelly's return to senior football comes at a timely moment, while as ever with St Joseph's, they have a handful of promising youngster making their way through.

League Form: Another impressive league campaign gave way to a defeat in the final, once again to O'Dempsey's.

Prospects: They have flattered to deceive for the last two years, having looked good in the league only to fail to follow up on that promise. On their day they could be a match for anyone, and they look to have all the necessary ingredients, but temperament for the big occasion remains in question.

---

STRADBALLY

Manager: Tony 'Barney' Maher

Captain: Damien Murphy

Team News: Eoin Buggie has spent the summer in America, so is likely to miss the opening round at least, while Ronan Maher is ruled out with a long-term injury. Apart from that, they have no other concerns.

League Form: Won five games in Division 1A, but that still wasn't enough, and they were relegated to Division 1B along with Ballylinan.

Prospects: Have regressed significantly since their 2016 championship win, and little so far this year suggests an upturn in fortunes is imminent. With their history and current ability they should be doing better, but at present they are hard to figure out.

---

THE HEATH

Manager: Barry McNamee

Captain: Alan Whelan

Team News: Veteran Aidan Bergin is out with a couple of cracked ribs suffered in a challenge game, while Daithi Carroll has a knee injury and is sidelined for the foreseeable future. Goalkeeper Joe Walshe is also in America, and will miss the early stages of the SFC.

League Form: Were in the mix for a place in the final until the last few rounds, in what was a positive league campaign overall.

Prospects: Missing a couple of key players in Walshe and Carroll, it will all depend on how they compensate for those losses. Having Evin Keane back fit is a huge bonus though, and if he remains in form they should be targeting the last eight.

---