The Laois senior hurlers made the perfect start to the Joe McDonagh Cup last night as they came out the right side of a crazy encounter with Offaly.
This was Laois’s third time to defeat Offaly this year and here we take a more in-depth look at the main talking points from the game.
1 – Man of the Match – Ryan Mullaney
A couple of Laois players put their hands up for this award with Mark Kavanagh and Cha Dwyer going very close but Ryan Mullaney was the best player on the pitch last night.
After a difficult week on a personal level for the Castletown centre back following the sad passing of his sister in law, Mullaney won every ball that came his way in O’Connor Park.
Almost every defender around him was under pressure at different times in the game but Mullaney remained calm and composed at all time.
2 – Return of the King
Ross King pulled on a Laois jersey for the first time in 2019 yesterday and, after initial signs of rustiness, he had a brilliant second half.
After scoring a point in the first half, King added three more in the second and set up a goal for Cha Dwyer. The Rathdowney-Errill man will only get better the more games that he plays.
3 – 7 goals in 70 minutes
Anyone who paid the tenner to get in to this game, certainly got full value for their money. You won’t see it on the Sunday Game tonight, but some of the goals that Laois scored were of a really high quality.
Paddy Purcell, Eanna Lyons, Cha Dwyer and sub Stephen Bergin all raised green flags in the second half before nine minutes of injury time were signalled.
The one thing that manager Brennan will not be happy with is the manner in which his side conceded three goals – especially as two of them came directly from their own errors deep in defence.
4 – Poor shooting a feature in the first half
At one stage in the National League quarter final against All-Ireland champions Limerick back in March, Laois actually had more attempts on goal that the eventual victors but their accuracy really let them down.
Yesterday, Laois recorded 11 first half wides in comparison to Offaly’s two and they went in level at half time while they really should have been way ahead. This is something Laois will need to rectify going forward as better teams that Offaly will punish them.
5 – Impact from the bench
Laois used five subs in their win last night and each of them contributed to the overall outcome in a positive way.
Castletown’s Conor Phelan was first on and he scored a great point while Neil Foyle and Aaron Dunphy battled for every ball that came their way.
Clough-Ballacolla’s Stephen Bergin popped up with the all-important fourth goal with his very first touch while Eric Killeen caught an extremely important high ball over the dangerous Joe Bergin deep in injury time.
6 – Depth of the squad
Eddie Brennan has assembled a very strong squad. He has lost Sean Downey to the States for the summer but outside of that everyone seems to be fit and raring to go.
Laois won yesterday and players like PJ Scully and Stephen Maher didn’t see any game time. Undoubtedly, those two will be involved as the competition progresses but to be able to put up a score of 4-22 without playing arguable two of the best forwards in the county shows just how strong the panel now is.
7 – Other Results and how the table looks
The day’s other Joe McDonagh Cup game saw Antrim run out comfortable winners by 3-19 to 0-14 over Kerry.
8 – What’s Next?
Up next for Laois is a home encounter with table-toppers Antrim at 3pm in O’Moore Park on Saturday May 18.
Next weekend’s other game see Westmeath host Offaly in their first game and that will be a very tasty affair – one you’d imagine Offaly simply cannot afford to lose.