Laois 1-22 Dublin 0-23
All Ireland SHC Preliminary Qualifier
The Laois hurlers have sent Dublin crashing out of this year’s All Ireland championship thanks to a thrilling win in O’Moore Park.
In a heroic performance, Laois led from start to finish and defied their massive outsiders tag.
To a man, Laois were outstanding – as they recorded arguably the county’s biggest hurling win since beating Wexford in the Leinster hurling semi-final in 1985.
This was, after all, a Dublin team that had dumped Galway out of the Leinster and All Ireland series three weeks ago and had been resting up for the last couple of weeks. In the early days of this week Laois were celebrating their Joe McDonagh Cup final.
This group of Laois hurlers have rarely experienced big home days like this. Championship hurling at the height of the summer: a packed stand in O’Moore Park, a decent scattering on the terraces and a good buzz on the back of that Joe McDonagh Cup success in Croke Park seven days ago.
And Laois seemed to thrive on it in the opening quarter. They had the game’s first three attacks but it wasn’t until the third one – and a fine effort from a pumped-up Cha Dwyer that Laois got off the mark.
Laois played a two-man full-forward line in the opening half of Ross King and Willie Dunphy with Cha Dwyer going to partner Paddy Purcell and John Lennon back to play as a sweeper in front of the full-back line.
And Laois were excellent in that opening quarter. Kavanagh doubled their lead with a ’65 and though Oisin O’Rorke pointed twice for the visitors, Paddy Purcell fired Laois back into the lead and then they struck for the game’s first goal in the eighth minute.
Willie Dunphy did incredibly well to keep the ball in play before taking on the Dublin defence and forcing a great save out of Alan Nolan.
Aaron Dunphy was on hand to finish to the net from close range. The large Laois support erupted and there was a giddy excitement when they got three of the next four points to lead 1-7 to 0-4 by the 18th minute – two Kavanagh frees and a sweet effort from Willie Dunphy after great work from Dwyer.
Ronan Hayes pointed twice and Eamon Dillon got one to bring the gap back to three and Dublin seemed to be settling. But another Kavanagh free and a massive effort from Ross King – after switching out to the half-forward line had Laois 1-9 to 0-7 up on the 30-minute mark.
O’Rorke pointed a close range free for Dublin after Podge Delaney hauled down Danny Sutcliffe but Laois got the next three scores, all from play and one more impressive and inspirational than the next – from Kavanagh, Jack Kelly and Dwyer.
By this stage Laois’s lead was a scarcely believable seven points. Sutcliffe and Conal Keaney got the last two points of the break but Laois headed to the dressing rooms with a 1-12 to 0-10 lead at the break and left the field to a thunderous reception and the ‘Laois, Laois, Laois, chant ringing in their ears.
Dublin were much improved in the second half and got the first three points – two from Boland and one from an O’Rorke free.
Indeed Laois were somewhat lucky that O’Rorke was off-form on the frees – even if Alan Kelly seemed harsh on the Laois defence on a couple of occasions – but they weathered that storm somewhat with Willie Dunphy pointing after great work from Jack Kelly.
O’Rorke responded with another free but Aaron Dunphy hit back and Mark Kavanagh landed a whopper of a free from his own half to restore Laois’s four-point lead.
Dublin had a great chance for a goal through Sutcliffe only for Enda Rowland to pull off a stunning save but Dublin got the next four points and were level by the 55th minute.
Yet Laois were far from a busted flush. They responded in style by getting the next three – the two Dunphys and another Mark Kavanagh free.
O’Rourke got two frees for Dublin but both were cancelled out – one from an outrageous free from goalkeeper Enda Rowland, the second from Willie Dunphy who had an outstanding second half in the middle of the field.
Kavanagh then got another free and with four minutes remaining, Laois were four up.
Dublin kept plugging away but Laois held firm and boosted by another whopper from Enda Rowland, Laois were still three up going into injury time.
Dublin threw everything at Laois in the final few moments and Laois were reduced to 14 when the exceptional John Lennon picked up a second yellow.
But Sean Moran’s effort for a goal was deflected over and Laois won by two points in the end.
The final whistle sparked joyous scenes, a pitch invasion and Lovely Laois on the speaker system!
A trip to Croke Park to play Tipperary next week awaits in the All Ireland quarter-final.
Bring! It! On!
SCORERS – Laois: Mark Kavanagh 0-9 (seven frees, one ’65), Aaron Dunphy 1-2, Willie Dunphy 0-4, Cha Dwyer 0-2, Ross King 0-1, Jack Kelly 0-1, Paddy Purcell 0-1, Enda Rowland 0-2 (frees); Dublin: Oisin O’Rorke 0-12 (10 frees, one ’65), Cian Boland 0-3, Danny Sutcliffe 0-2, Ronan Hayes 0-2, Eamon Dillon 0-1, Conal Keaney 0-1, Paul Ryan 0-1 (free), Sean Moran 0-1 (free)
DUBLIN: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Shane Barrett, Darragh O’Connell; Chris Crummey, Sean Moran, James Madden; Sean Treacy, Tom Connolly; Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe, Cian Boland; Oisin O’Rorke, Ronan Hayes, Eamon Dillon. Subs: Fergal Whitely for Treacy (53), Paul Ryan for Keaney (57), John Hetherton for Boland (65)
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Lee Cleere, Matthew Whelan, Joe Phelan; Jack Kelly, Ryan Mullaney, Padraig Delaney; John Lennon, Paddy Purcell; Aaron Dunphy, Mark Kavanagh, Eanna Lyons; Willie Dunphy, Cha Dwyer, Ross King. Subs: Eric Killeen for Delaney (54), Conor Phelan for Kelly (58), Stephen Bergin for King (62), Eoin Gaughan for Kavanagh (69)
REFEREE: Alan Kelly (Galway)