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Talking Points and photos from a hectic championship final Sunday

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It was a typically hectic county final Sunday in O’Moore Park as a triple header of games kept us all enthralled for the afternoon.

In the opening game, the rather unusual amalgamation of Clough-Ballacolla and Mountrath claimed minor hurling glory as they got the better of The Harps while Portlaoise made it a bad day for the Cullohill-Durrow club by winning the SHC ‘A’ final before Camross claimed the senior title in the big one by getting the better of Rathdowney-Errill in a controversial affair.

Here we pick out some of the day’s big talking points.

1 – Camross crowned champions again

For the second year running, Camross have won the Laois SHC. An incredible club, they have now won the Laois title for a 26th time, become the first side to retain the Bob O’Keeffe Cup since Castletown in 2003 and it’s the first time they’ve done two-in-a-row themselves since 1993-1994.

Winning captain Niall Holmes said in his acceptance speech afterwards that Camross don’t get the credit they deserve for what they’ve done – and to a point he’s correct, even if we did point it out in our pre-match preview and in our podcast on Friday.

But they’ve now won the league and championship in 2017 and 2018 and have won this year’s championship by beating Rathdowney-Errill twice and Clough-Ballacolla and Borris-Kilcotton, all the recent previous championships. Indeed they now have a real run on all of those teams – with six wins in a row now over Rathdowney-Errill who they had previously lost to in two finals.

They’re the dominant team in Laois right now – and will make a big drive for three-in-a-row in 2019.

2 – Serious injury proves a big turning point in senior final

In the 25th minute of the senior final, Rathdowney-Errill were leading Camross 0-8 to 0-5 despite playing into the stiff breeze. Then an ugly skirmish broke out on the sideline almost right in front of the tunnel.

The upshot of it was that Ross King, Laois captain for the past two seasons and one of Rathdowney-Errill’s top forwards, was forced off with an ugly facial injury and didn’t return to play.

Referee John O’Brien gave yellow cards to Camross’s Niall Holmes and Darrell Dooley. Around that time too, influential Rathdowney-Errill midfielder Shane Dollard was forced off with a groin injury.

Then, in the five minutes before half time, Camross scored 1-3, the goal coming from Eoin Gaughan just before the break, to send them in 1-8 to 0-8 up at the break. It was a serious turnaround but Rathdowney-Errill can feel aggrieved that there wasn’t more than a yellow card dished out and the double whammy of having to go on without a player of King’s calibre.

Had the decision been different, or King not forced off, then Rathdowney-Errill could have went on to win it.

3 – Man of the Match

There was a couple of fine performers on both sides with a number of players in the running for man of the match. Mark Kavanagh and Joe Fitzpatrick for Rathdowney-Errill were both excellent while last year’s player of the year Joe Phelan was again in fine form, as was Lorcan Burke and Mark Dowling. But Ciaran Collier was the official man of the match and deservedly so. Won an amount of puckouts, scored three points from play and always seemed to do the right thing with possession.

4 – Rathdowney-Errill wastefulness

Rathdowney-Errill can have grievances over the Ross King injury but they had plenty of chances in the second half to really put pressure on Camross.

However, a combination of bad decisions and bad shooting let the champions off the hook. When Rathdowney-Errill look back on the video, they’ll lament the chances that went astray.

5 – Portlaoise deliver when it matters most

The manner in which the Portlaoise hurlers turned their season around, just when it mattered most, is really impressive. Following relegation from the league, winning just one of eight games and giving a walkover in another, they then went and lost their opening two championship group games to Rosenallis and Clonaslee.

They got out of the group thanks to a final round win over Trumera and then scraped by Shanahoe Gaels in the quarter-final before turning the tables on Clonaslee in the semi-final.

In Sunday’s final, they played well against the wind in the first half, with Cormac Rigney pointing his frees in the absence of the injured Aaron Bergin, Cahir Healy and Frank Flanagan impressive in defence, Tommy Fitzgerald doing well on the half forward line and David O’Mahony causing all sorts of problems in the full-forward line.

But they made a break for it early in the second half with O’Mahony getting the game’s first goal. Had Cian Taylor scored the penalty, they could have won by even more, but they were comfortable enough despite a late goal from The Harps.

Portlaoise now make an instant return to the senior ranks following their second win in four seasons in this grade.

6 – The Harps disappoint – and wait goes on

As mentioned in our buildup to the game, The Harps have never won a championship with their first team – and that wait goes on following Sunday’s defeat.

They were the best team in the championship prior to Sunday’s final but too many of their players underperformed and for the third year running in 2019 they will find themselves outside the top grade.

They didn’t make enough use of the wind in the opening half and struggled badly in the second half against it.

They’ll be hugely disappointed at how the season petered out.

7 – Minor success for Clough-Ballacolla and Mountrath

They wore the Clough-Ballacolla colours but there was players from Mountrath and Trumera also involved as they got the better of The Harps in the opening game of the day – the Laois minor hurling final.

Now played at U-17, it was the first minor success for Clough-Ballacolla since 2006. They also claimed minor titles in 2002 and 2003 – with many players from those three teams going on to play key parts in their senior successes in 2009, 2011 and 2015.

They’ll be hoping this current crop of players can go on to achieve similar success.

Man of the match Cillian Dunne with mam Alison and dad Liam

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.