The Laois hurling championships could be welcoming two new teams in the coming days as Castletown and Slieve Bloom, and Clonad and Shanahoe are in negotiations about possible amalgmations ahead of the deadline for submissions at next Monday night's meeting of the County Board.
Castletown and Slieve Bloom have been holding talks in recent weeks which would see a reform of the club structures in the parish, while Clonad and Shanahoe are also contemplating joining together to field a team in the senior championship. Both moves are dependant on the outcome of club meetings which are taking place this week.
With Slieve Bloom holding their AGM this Sunday, it will be right to the wire for their proposed amalgamation with Castletown. At present there are three teams in the parish, with Castletown and Slieve Bloom competing as separate hurling clubs, while both join together as Shamrocks to play in the JFC 'C' championship.
It is believed that under the new agreement the Shamrocks club would be disbanded, and they would instead field hurling teams under the guise of Castletown-Slieve Bloom, and football teams as Slieve Bloom-Castletown.
With both clubs already joining together to play at juvenile level as Naomh Eamann, as well as the added pressures emigration has placed on the parish, the move to join up at senior level will come as no surprise to many around the county.
An agreement has not yet been reached though, and it will depend on the appetite for change amongst both clubs, starting with the Slieve Bloom AGM this Sunday.
Clonad and Shanahoe are also trying to reach an agreement to field a senior team for 2011, with Clonad holding a committee meeting on Monday night to discuss the matter. The outcome of that meeting is not yet known, but Clonad chairman George Conroy confirmed on Tuesday morning that they were still in negotiations.
With both clubs already competing in the Intermediate championship, it would not be a full amalgamation, rather one just to field a senior team for the coming year. Players from both clubs held preliminary discussions back in November, and while there hadn't been much movement since then, there has been a renewed effort to push a move through as the deadline for affiliations looms.
Should an agreement be reached, it could have a knock-on effect on the structures of this year's senior hurling championship. With the recent amalgamation of Borris-in-Ossory and Kilcotton the senior championship has been reduced to 11 teams, but if Shanahoe and Clonad come to an arrangement it would bring the number up to 12, with the current championship format likely to remain in place as a result.
In that scenario it would also guarantee a reprieve for Abbeyleix, who could still have been relegated having lost out to Mountrath in the relegation final last year.
Should the Castletown and Slieve Bloom amalgamation also come to pass, then it would have repercussions for the Junior 'A' hurling championship. Both clubs fielded teams at the grade last year, but if they were to amalgamate they would leave the championship with one team less.
The formats for this year's championships are due to be settled on in the coming days as the Laois CCC meet later this week. Chairman Brian Allen declined to comment on any potential changes to how the competitions will be run, only to say that there would be some "tweaking" done to some of the championships.
Once the new club affiliations and championship formats have been passed through a County Board meeting they will become final, and with the next County Board meeting due to take place next Monday, January 24, it leaves all four clubs in a race against time to reach agreements.
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