Round three in the Laois senior football championship is the signal that things are about to get more serious. A defeat in this round and clubs are out of the championship dashing any hopes of championship glory.
All the teams playing in round three have already lost a game while there are also relegation semi finals down for decision for those teams who were defeated in round one and subsequently defeated in the qualifier section.
There are no shortage of tasty battles and we try run the rule over the action that begins on Friday night and runs to Sunday evening.
Round 3 Games
Arles Killeen v The Heath – Saturday 19th September – MW Hire O'Moore Park 17.30
The first of the round three games sees a rejuvenated Arles Killeen face up to the Heath. Both have something in common in that they were both beaten by Graiguecullen in this year's championship and both have beaten Arles Kilcruise.
The Kingston brothers were to the fore for Killeen in their derby win over Kilcruise and they will need them on top form again if they are to move on to the quarter finals.
The Heath took are a side who have plenty of firepower also with the likes of Chris Bergin, Daithi Carroll and Conor Booth to the fore.
Nothing easy at this stage of the championship but The Heath look to have the better hand.
Verdict: The Heath
Ballylinan v Ballyroan Abbey – Sunday 20th September – MW Hire O'Moore Park 1pm
This battle is a tight one to call. Ballylinan did well to keep on Portlaoise tails in the opening round and showed their experience and class in disposing of Rosenallis in the last round.
Gary Walsh is a forward that commands attention as his prowess from dead balls and open play goes before him.
The haven't been big scorers in the championship so far but have conceded very little also with Rosenallis only managing eight points, only four from play, last time out.
Ballyroan Abbey like to attack but this will be a test for them and the defensive shield of Ballylinan is going to ask more questions of them and in particular Diarmuid Whelan.
A low scoring affair is on the cards and that may suit the Ballylinan men.
Killeshin v O'Dempsey's – Sunday 20th September – MW Hire O'Moore Park 3pm
The game with the most potential to be the game of the round. O'Dempsey's will still be hurting from their loss to Emo and how they let the lead slip while Killeshin look refreshed following their four point win over Courtwood in the last round.
Evan and Eoin Lowry at one end and Michael and Matthew Finlay at the other end means that there will be no shortage of scores but which defence can stifle the opposition attack more.
O'Dempsey's created plenty of chances against Emo but were wasteful while they faded badly in the final five or six minutes.
Killeshin were nearly caught at the end of their game with Courtwood also but held on and this game will be season defining as the winner will be a tough nut to crack in a quarter final.
Portlaoise v St Joseph's– Sunday 20th September – MW Hire O'Moore Park 5pm
The reigning champions are now in last chance saloon after their defeat to Portarlington in round two. Retirements have hit them hard while Cahir Healy is back in the UK and unavailable. An injury to Paul Cahillane in the opening round win over Ballylinan prevented him from lining out against Portarlington and Portlaoise need him back to spark life into their forward line.
St Joseph's won a tense and hard fought battle with Stradbally last time out with Jack Kelly inspiring them from full back.
Josh O'Brien, Josh Lacey and Dylan Doyle are young forwards who can have a big impact on the game also.
The opportunity to knock the champions out will be an extra layer of motivation but factoring everything in, they look to be up against it.
Relegation semi finals
Courtwood v Rosenallis – Friday 18th September – LOETB Centre of Excellence 19.30
The pressure is on now for both clubs as relegation looms large. Both would have fancied their chances in the last round but came up short and neither can have any complaints with their defeat.
Niall Donoher returned for Courtwood while Danny Luttrell also performed well for them.
Luttrell's potential battle with John O'Loughlin will be one to watch out for in the middle third.
Rosenallis were well marshalled by Ballylinan and their forwards struggled to make any inroads.
They will learn from that and with the hurling on the crest of a wave in the club, they will look to feed off that and push on to maintain their senior status.
Arles-Kilcruise v Stradbally – Saturday 19th September – MW Hire O'Moore Park 15.30
A first win of the year will assure on of these teams of senior football in 2021 but which one will it be.
Kilcruise were well beaten by Killeen last time out and add to that the sending off to David Conway which, unless an appeal is successful, would rule him out of the game with Stradbally.
Conway was their best forward two weeks ago and his loss would be savage to their chances.
Stradbally were just edged by St Joseph's but if they have Jody Dillon and Eoin Buggie back in their hands, their hand will be strengthened.
With the pressure on, who has the more improvement to find?
Intermediate football quarter finals
Mountmellick v Portlaoise – Friday 18th September – Annanough 19.30
The Intermediate football championship has reached the knockout stage and Mountmellick and Portlaoise will both fancy their chances on Friday night.
Although losing to championship favourites Crettyard, Portlaoise had some good spells in the game with Craig Rogers to the fore with five points.
Niall Mullen hit 1-7 for Mountmellick in their win over Annanough and it was needed after a largely flay performance. Finalists two years ago, they will need to bring their best on Friday but will start the game as favourites.
O'Dempsey's v The Rock – Friday 18th September – Portarlington 19.30
The Rock were big underdogs in their last game against Clonaslee but they came close to taking the scalp before going on to come up short by just two points.
They kept it tight at the back and had Stephen McDonald in fine form up front with five points from play.
O'Dempsey's got back on track with a straight forward win over Timahoe. They outscored Timahoe 1-8 to 0-3 in the second half and eased home with Darren Finlay and Ciaran McManus both firing goals while the evergreen Peter O'Leary also standing out.