Laois 3-26 Westmeath 1-21
Joe McDonagh Cup Final
Laois are the Joe McDonagh Cup champions after Mark Kavanagh and Aaron Dunphy fired them to glory against Westmeath in Croke Park this afternoon.
It completes a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of Laois hurling under Eddie Brennan as he has taken a side who battled relegation in this competition last season to glory in the space of 12 months.
Mark Kavanagh, in his first game back from injury since the win over Antrim well over a month ago, was the star of the show as he fired over 12 points while Borris-Kilcotton’s Aaron Dunphy chipped in with 1-4 and worked tirelessly throughout as Laois won by 11 points in the end.
Laois will now compete in the Leinster championship in 2020 and will face Dublin next weekend in a Preliminary All-Ireland Qualifier.
In a first half of extremely high quality, all of Laois’s scores came from play except for the very last one which was a Mark Kavanagh free.
Westmeath opened their account in the second minute through a Killian Doyle sideline cut but Laois scored a goal with their first meaningful attack.
John Lennon fired the ball into the full forward line where Willie Dunphy flicked it away from two Westmeath defenders and eventually into the path of Ross King who buried it into the back of the net.
That gave Laois the lead and they would hold that advantage throughout the first half.
Shane Clavin responded for Westmeath but Aaron Dunphy immediately put Laois 1-1 to 0-2 in front after 8 minutes.
It was tit for tat after that with Killian Doyle doing the bulk of the Westmeath scoring to keep them within touching distance while Mark Kavanagh fired over a series of long range points with John Lennon also getting in on the action.
Then right at the midpoint of the half, Laois grabbed a crucial second goal. Paddy Purcell played the ball across to Aaron Dunphy who beat his man for pace and then blasted the ball to the rough of the net.
Laois now led 2-6 to 0-7 but there would only be a point in it after 22 minutes. Killian Doyle waltzed through the Laois defence and unleashed a low shot which beat Rowland and then added a point to leave it 2-6 to 1-8.
Laois responded well to that set back though with Cha Dwyer (2), Mark Kavanagh and Aaron Dunphy all pointing in the immediate aftermath of it.
Westmeath grabbed two more scores through Shane Clavin and Aonghus Clarke but Laois brought the half to an end with a Kavanagh free to lead 2-11 to 1-10 at the break.
Westmeath started the second half well with Allan Devine and Killian Doyle pointing to reduce the arrears but a Mark Kavanagh 65 and free kept the gap at four after 40 minutes.
Half time sub Derek McNichollas responded for Westmeath and then Killian Doyle landed two frees before Laois got their third goal.
Paddy Purcell drove forward from midfield and popped that ball off to Stephen Bergin, who was only on the field a few moments after entering as a blood sub for Mark Kavanagh, and he rifled the ball to the net.
Kavanagh, who was suffering with a blister on the sole of his foot, returned and then landed a free to move Laois 3-14 to 1-15 ahead with 20 minutes to play.
Aonghus Clarke responded for Laois but Mark Kavanagh took his tally to 11 for the afternoon moments later with two quickfire frees to put six between them.
Westmeath refused to lie down though and points from Ciaran Doyle and Killian Doyle left it 3-16 to 1-18 with 55 minutes on the clock.
But sub Eanna Lyons and the excellent Aaron Dunphy fired over points from the Cusack and Hogan side respectively to leave Laois six ahead again with ten minutes to play.
Laois were heading for home now and Lyons blasted a second before John Lennon hit a monster from way out the field to move Laois eight ahead.
Ciaran Doyle and Laois sub Neil Foyle exchanged points before Lyons notched his third point seven points after his introduction to put Laois 3-22 to 1-19 in front after 63 minutes.
And Laois continued to press on to win with ease from there as Dunphy, Neil Doyle, captain Paddy Purcell and Mark Kavanagh all scored before the end.
Laois will now go forward to compete in the Preliminary All-Ireland Qualifier clash with Dublin next weekend at home.
SCORERS – LAOIS: Mark Kavanagh 0-12 (five frees, two 65s), Aaron Dunphy 1-4, Ross King 1-0, Stephen Bergin 1-0, Cha Dwyer 0-2, John Lennon 0-2, Eanna Lyons 0-3, Neil Foyle 0-2, Paddy Purcell 0-1 WESTMEATH: Killian Doyle 1-11 (six frees, one sideline), Cormac Boyle 0-1, Shane Clavin 0-1, Aonghus Clarke 0-2, Allan Devine 0-1, Derek McNicholas 0-1, Ciaran Doyle 0-2, Joey Boyle 0-1, Eoin Price 0-1
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (St Lazerian’s Abbeyleix); Lee Cleere (Clough-Ballacolla), Matthew Whelan (Borris-Kilcotton), Donnacha Hartnett (Mountmellick); Jack Kelly (Rathdowney-Errill) Ryan Mullaney (Castletown), Padraig Delaney (The Harps); John Lennon (Rosenallis), Paddy Purcell (Rathdowney-Errill); Aaron Dunphy (Borris-Kilcotton), Mark Kavanagh (Rathdowney-Errill), Stephen Maher (Clough-Ballacolla); Willie Dunphy (Clough-Ballacolla), Charles Dwyer (Ballinakill), Ross King (Rathdowney-Errill). Subs: Stephen Bergin (Clough-Ballacolla) for Kavanagh (43 temporary, reversed 48), Stephen Bergin for King (48), Eanna Lyons (Ballyfin) for Maher (55), Neil Foyle (Borris-Kilcotton) for Dwyer (58), Joe Phelan (Camross) for Kelly (71)
WESTMEATH: Conor Lynch; Daragh Egerton, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Liam Varley, Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville; Shane Clavin, John Gilligan; Joey Boyle, Killian Doyle, Cormac Boyle; Alan Devine, Darragh Clinton, Robbie Greville. Subs: Eoin Price for Gilligan (32), Derek McNicholas for Clinton (ht), Ciaran Doyle for C Boyle (53), Darragh O’Reilly for Devine (66)
Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim)