Home Sport GAA Mid-Term Report: Positive signs for Laois hurlers but crucial games to come

Mid-Term Report: Positive signs for Laois hurlers but crucial games to come

It’s not only mid-term for schools this week, but it’s also the halfway point in the Allianz Division 1B hurling league.

So far, Eddie Brennan’s Laois suffered two defeats at the hands of Galway and Waterford but then recorded a valuable victory over neighbours Offaly, which they would have been targeting from the beginning of the year.

Here, we take a look at the players who have featured so far and those who have yet to do so, review of the games played in the league so far, preview what’s to come and finally give them a grade on their performance to date.

Check out our first ever Mid-Term report for the Laois senior hurlers below:

Player by Player Report

The Laois hurlers have not released a panel yet but here will we go through what we know about all of the players to date.

We have identified 36 players.

Enda Rowland 

Goalkeeper Rowland has played every minute of the league this season. One of the more experienced members on the Laois squad, he has perhaps been busier than he would like in the first two games.

Waterford proved to be a tough test for the Abbeyleix man, but he has pulled off some spectacular saves throughout. Against Offaly he showed why he is up there with the best with his puckouts and covering of the line.

Joe Phelan 

Joe has been outstanding in the league so far, particularly against neighbours Offaly. Selected as vice-captain for this year, Camross man Joe has taken his duties on well, and does his talking out on the pitch. Put in a man of the match performance against Offaly last weekend.

Matthew Whelan

Matthew Whelan has played in all 3 matches and seems to be relishing the role of full back this year – having operated for most of his inter-county career a line further out the field.

Whelan was fully stretched in the first two games keeping Galway and Waterford attackers away from the goals but is coping with being the anchor of the full back well. His experience is proving invaluable to what is a relatively young team.

Donnacha Hartnett 

Hartnett has laid a marker on his position at corner-back and has played every minute of Division 1B so far. In saying this, he also put in a good display in midfield against Waterford in the league and Dublin in the Walsh Cup.

Although he is by no means the biggest member of a typical full-back line he has proven to be nippy in getting the sliotar out of rucks and clearing it out of trouble.

Jack Kelly 

Jack Kelly from Rathdowney has played all three league games and is proving to be accomplished wing-back.

Probably known for his hard-hitting tackling but is very capable of scoring long range points. Apart from starting corner back against Waterford, he seems to have secured the number 5 jersey as his own for the present.

Ryan Mullaney 

Ryan has been spearheading Laois’s half-back line for each game of the league. Mullaney’s utilized his aerial skills in the centre-back role – and is well able to take his own points as he showcased against Waterford.

He fits into the dominant role of centre-back well having played a variety roles of in the backs since he first joined the senior panel in 2016.

Padraig Delaney

The Harps man Padraig began his 2019 campaign starting in the opening Galway game and coming on a substitute against Offaly and Waterford.

Padraig normally plays corner of wing back depending on the system being deployed with Hartnett. The first games would have been a huge learning experience for him.

Conor Phelan 

Primarily used to playing in the half-back line, Phelan has been introduced in midfield alongside PJ Scully for both of the Galway and Waterford games.

The 21 year old has made an appearance in each of the three league games, coming on in the 64th minute against Offaly.

Eanna Lyons 

Eanna Lyons has started in all three games alternating between centre and wing forward. He is immense under a high ball and a key target target for long-range puck outs.

Lyons will be looking to nail down a half forward spot during the rest of the league campaign.

Mark Kavanagh 

Kavanagh has been in scintillating form so far this year. Standing over the frees for Laois, Kavanagh is Laois’s main scorer so far for 2019 – contributing 1-22 from play and from placed balls.

With enviable skill, Kavanagh is a threat for any corner-back, not to mention his accuracy with sidelines.

Paddy Purcell 

This year’s captain Purcell tends to always lead from the front.  He is probably Laois’s most versatile player and has occupied a number of positions from corner forward, wing forward and midfield at end of the Offaly game – a position most people think is his best.

Paddy’s direct running at defences is a powerful weapon for Laois to have. He has worked his way into the season from a slow enough start to full throttle in the second half of the Offaly game when it was most needed.

John Lennon 

Lennon has started in each of three league games so far this year. While being named in the corner-forward position for two of those games, he was brought out to the midfield line and was named as starting there in the match against Offaly. Most notably scored two goals against Galway in the league opener.

Aaron Dunphy 

Wing-forward Aaron earned high praise when he scored three points in quick succession against Offaly last weekend.

After breaking onto the Laois senior hurling team two years ago, the young Borris-Kilcotton man has started in each of the three league games played and attacking prowess is being noticed.

Stephen Maher 

Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher started the Galway game and while he didn’t make the first 15 in the Waterford game, he showed strong signs of what he is capable of in the Offaly game – his best this year.

As Offaly chipped away at Laois’s lead in the second half at the weekend, it was Picky who was on hand to fire in the rebound from Paddy Purcell’s shot and put a dampener on any hopes of Offaly igniting a full-blown comeback.

Sean Downey 

Sean Downey made the return from injury at the start of this league campaign. In his two starts he has been at wing-back and midfield, although he probably more noted as being a forward – where he played Fitzgibbon for IT Carlow this year. Sean is one of those players who gives 100 percent every time he goes out.

Willie Dunphy

Dunphy was on cloud nine after putting away two goals against Offaly at the weekend in quick succession to put Laois clear into the lead.

He came on for Cha Dwyer when the Ballinakill man went off injured against Waterford and has a scoring tally of 2-1 after two games.

PJ Scully 

Traditionally a forward, Borris-Kilcotton man PJ has been playing the role of midfield for the matches he was involved in.

He played in the middle of the pitch for the games against Galway and Waterford but did not make an appearance against Offaly.

Neil Foyle 

Now playing in his ninth consecutive season for Laois, Foyle adds a physical dimension on the full-forward line.

Was introduced against Galway and made a start against Waterford. A very viable option in a full forward line that has yet to be nailed down.

Cha Dwyer 

We haven’t seen much of the powerhouse that is Cha in the league so far. The Ballinakill man came on for PJ Scully in the games against Galway and Waterford and did not appear on the panel for the Offaly game after limping off injured in the Waterford defeat.

Definitely an appearance Laois fans are waiting one.

Lee Cleere

Cleere hasn’t seen much game time so far this season due to injury and a red card received in his first few minutes of the Waterford game ruling him out for the lineup against Offaly.

However the Clough-Ballacolla man is now available for selection in the next two games and given his fine form in both of last year’s club and intercounty scene, he’s a defender we’d love to see back between the white lines.

Lee Cleere of Laois during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Preliminary Round match between Laois and Carlow. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Jake Cranny 

Cranny’s first competitive run out of the 2019 season was in the first weekend of January as Laois faced Dublin in the Walsh Cup.

The young Abbeyleix man made his way onto the starting 15 against Offaly and alongside Mullaney and Kelly, was part of a half-back line that dominated the play over our near neigbhbours.

Eoin Gaughan 

Camross man Gaughan made his first ever competitive start for the Laois seniors in their first outing in the Walsh Cup against Offaly.

The classy forward came on in the 67th minute of the Division 1B game against the Faithful county and the young man has taken the transition from U-21 to senior in his stride.

Mark Dowling

Another young Camross man in with Eddie Brennan’s side is Mark Dowling.

Was the first substitution introduced for Laois during last weekend’s league fixture against Offaly. Every team needs a player with an eye for goal and Mark Dowling has direct vision when heading for the net.

Lorcan Burke

Burke has only made one league appearance so far – coming on towards the end of the Offaly game. However the Camross man is certainly a welcome addition to the panel having been brought in before the league opener against Galway.

Burke’s physicality and strength in the air would add another dimension to Laois’s game.

Eric Killeen 

Rathdowney-Errill man Eric Killeen plys his trade at wing-back but has yet to appear in the league for Eddie Brennan’s side due to injury. He made the return to training last week.

Killeen played in both Walsh Cup games against Dublin and Carlow and is yet another figure who could slot into this half-back line.

Eoin Fleming

Borris-Kilcotton goalkeeeper Fleming has been called upon once so far in the 2019 season – when Laois faced Carlow in the Walsh Cup. Although Laois lost to Carlow that day – two brilliant saves from Fleming showed has skill at stopping a shot at point-blank range.

Hasn’t appeared since but is certainly an able deputy to Enda Rowland.

Paddy Keating

Rosenallis sharpshooter Keating made his reintroduction onto the Laois senior panel this season.

Began at centre-forward in the novice Laois side who defeated Offaly in the Wlash Cup and made a brief appearance in the Walsh Cup game against Carlow but has yet to clock in any minutes on the field in this year’s league.

Andrew Mortimer

Mortimer was out due to injury in January but has since been back training with the squad. He has yet to feature in any Division 1B games but made a memorable starting debut in the Walsh Cup against Offaly.

Mortimer is comfortable operating as a defender or a forward and that versatility could be invaluable. He even settled into the full back line for his club Camross last year and was very impressive throughout.

David Connolly

Four new faces joined the Laois panel since they bowed out of the Walsh Cup, including Ballyfin’s David Connolly. Connolly has yet to feature in the league on this his first year on the Laois senior hurling panel.

Evan Cuddy 

Like Connolly above, Castletown’s Evan Cuddy was another who joined the panel just before the start of the league.

The defender has yet to play in the league however.

Stephen Dunphy

Stephen Dunphy is Aaron Dunphy’s twin brother and is another skillful forward.

The Borris-Kilcotton man also came into the fold before the league started but has yet to play.

Aaron Bergin

Bergin is the sole representative from senior ‘A’ county champions Portlaoise in on the Laois senior panel. The senior ‘A’ Laois GAA Hurler of the Year made his first competitive start against Offaly in the Walsh Cup. He was named in the starting 15 in the following game against Carlow and came on against Galway in the league opener.

Ciaran Comerford

Ciaran Comerford graduated to the Laois senior team in 2018 year after impressing for the minors in 2017 – including being voted as the Electric Ireland minor hurling player of the week.

He was brought on during the Offaly Walsh Cup game at half-time and has just returned to training after breaking a bone in his foot in the U21 county final before Christmas. Certainly a viable option for Eddie Brennan’s charges going forward.

Daniel Comerford

Ciaran’s twin brother and debutante Daniel was introduced in the second half against Offaly in the opening game of the Walsh Cup in the full-back line and being in on the Laois senior panel will prove invauable experience to the The Harps defender.

Colm Stapleton

Another man yet to play in division 1B is Borris-Kilcotton man Colm Stapleton. Stapleton paved his way in midfield in each of Laois’s Walsh Cup games against Offaly, Carlow and Dublin. Stapleton is just after returning to training after getting a operation to take out his tonsils before Christmas.

Stephen Bergin

The Clough-Ballacolla forward has a real eye for goal and featured in the Walsh Cup for Laois.

Was also part of the IT Carlow team that reached the quarter finals of the Fitzgibbon Cup but has yet to make an appearance in the league.

Games played so far

Laois 2-15 Galway 1-27

On paper this looked like it would be a very difficult assignment for Laois and despite losing by nine points in Salthill, the hurlers showed grit and fighting ability that has been lacking for the last year.

Although it was by no means Galway’s full-strength team, Laois held in there just enough to not let the deficit go into double digits.

Laois 1-15 Waterford 4-22

Waterford came out well on top as the Laois hurlers suffered a heavy defeat in their second game of the league.

Despite Waterford being without their Ballygunner contingent and star names such as Austin Gleeson and the Fives brothers, they still dominated from the get-go.

Mark Kavanagh hit 1-8 for Eddie Brennan’s side but the main concern after the game was conceding four goals against a powerful Deise full-forward line.

Laois 3-17 Offaly 2-16

Laois fans were jubilant to record their first win of Division 1B in this crunch match over neighbours Offaly.

The final scoreline does not reflect the dominance Laois held over Offaly for much of the game – particularly in the the first half when they went in 2-13 to 0-6 ahead at half-time.

It was this game that Eddie Brennan stated his men were targeting for a win and leaves them clear of the bottom of the league table, above both Carlow and Offaly.

What’s to come

Laois have two games left in the group stage of Division 1B. They face Carlow in another must-win game this weekend on Sunday, 24 February in Netwatch Dr Cullen Park.

Victory will see them virtually certain of qualifying for a league quarter final while defeat will almost certainly result in a place in the relegation playoff.

The following week, they face Dublin in Parnell Park on Sunday, 3 March.

After the league, Laois will head for the Joe McDonagh Cup where they will face Westmeath, Offaly, Kerry and Antrim in a round-robin.

Grading: C +

A cautionary ‘C’ plus has been given to the Laois hurlers for the league so far.

Showed an impressive workrate against Galway but lost heavily to Waterford.

However Laois are just halfway through the two games they targeted for results at the beginning of the year – against Offaly and Carlow.

The first two fixtures were tough games but the real proof of the pudding as to just exactly where the Laois hurlers are will be against Carlow.

SEE ALSO – Laois to vote against motion allowing U-17s play adult GAA