Aaron Flanagan, Clodiagh Gaels, chasing Kinnitty's Shane Kinsella last year.
THE Molloy Environmental Senior “B” Hurling Championship should be very competitive this year with a few teams having realistic aspirations of honours.
Reduced to six teams as senior returned to ten this year, there will be plenty of hurling before definite patterns emerge.
Clara, Clodiagh Gaels, Kilcormac-Killoughey, Lusmagh, Tullamore and Shinrone will play each other in the one group with the top four going into two semi-finals.
Clodiagh Gaels and Tullamore were beaten in the semi-finals last year and they are the two front runners while Lusmagh should be there or there abouts.
Clara have a strong hurling fraternity, some very good hurlers and they will be competitive. Winning senior “B” football and getting back up to top flight football is their big priority for the year, however, and they could come up short here.
The championship is completed by the second team from Kilcormac-Killoughey and Shinrone. Shinrone won the 2020 intermediate title a couple of weeks ago and both them and Kilcormac-Killoughey will command respect. They have a lot of good hurlers and will be capable of beating anyone. One of them could sneak into a semi-final but really and truly, a club's second team should not be winning the second tier in Offaly hurling.
You never know, though, and there will be a lot of twists and turns in this championship. Drumcullen were surprise packets last year, coming up on the rails to reach the final and return to senior.
There will be surprise results but Clodiagh Gaels are the slight favourites. They have a county star in Liam Langton and his hurling and consistency has really come on in leaps and bounds this year. His brother Conor was also on the extended Offaly senior hurling panel this year and the Killeigh-Killurin outfit have a lot of very good hurlers.
Tullamore won't fear Clodiagh Gaels in the slightest. They have Kevin Martin back at the helm and while Shane Dooley is now in the Winter of his career, he is capable of destroying teams at this level.
Lusmagh have appointed former Birr manager Barry Whelahan and this shows how serious they are. Their target is winning the championship but they need to find consistency to do so. They shouldn't be far away and are certainly capable of reaching a semi-final.
Clodiagh Gaels, Tullamore and Lusmagh are the fancy to make the semi-finals, though it is always possible that one of them could lose out. Clodiagh Gaels have plenty to prove yet but they do look to be the team to beat.
Verdict – Clodiagh Gaels.
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