This Laois hurling adventure had to end sometime – and it did in Croke Park this afternoon as Tipperary proved too strong and won on a 2-25 to 1-17 scoreline.
But Laois can be very proud of their display which came at the end of a gruelling three-week period.
Here we go through some of the game’s main talking points and look ahead to 2020.
Man of the Match – Jack Kelly
It says a lot about Jack Kelly’s exceptional performance that he was chosen by RTE as the official man of the match despite being on a team beaten by 10 points.
But for the second week in a row against a top hurling team, the Rathdowney-Errill man was exceptional.
He hit two points from play from wing-back, got on an amount of ball and had a role in a couple of other scores too. What a competitor.
Holding their own
For the second week in a row, Laois mixed with the elite teams. A week after beating a Dublin team that had knocked last year’s All Ireland finalists Galway out of the championship, they competed well with a Tipperary side packed with household names with 15 All Ireland medals between them.
Laois didn’t look out of their depth at all and would surely have been even closer at the final whistle were it not for the red card on Aaron Dunphy early in the second half.
Tipperary did miss two decent goal chances in the first half but Laois did very well both individually and collectively.
Incredibly spirited display
When Laois were trailing by eight points in the first half, they could have folded altogether. But they kept battling and had the difference back to three coming up to half time.
Laois deserve the plaudits that will come their way and will be keen to learn and develop even further.
For the third Sunday in a row, the Laois hurlers took centre stage and despite how tough a challenge that was, they were still going hard in the dying minutes.
Eddie Brennan and his management team have built a great team spirit and they’ve really captured the imagination of the Laois public.
Lap of honour and Laois support
It’s not often you see a losing team do a lap of honour in Croke Park (the Fermanagh footballers spring to mind from a couple of years back) but you couldn’t begrudge the Laois hurlers acknowledging their supporters after what has been a memorable season.
And the supporters recognised what was a great display and a great season.
This has been an incredible experience over the past couple of months and the Laois supporters have duly come out in huge numbers.
A group on Hill 16, who formed something of an anti-Tipp alliance with the Cork and Kilkenny fans, never let up for the entire game, with the unmistakeable ‘Laois, Laois, Laois’ chant getting numerous airings as well as an even more innovative ‘Laois are on the up’ effort.
Holding on to that support will be the challenge now – but how brilliant has it been to see Laois flags dotted all over and Laois supporters of all ages in the blue and white?
Long may it continue.
The sending off
Aaron Dunphy has scored 3-11 from play in his last four games and was putting in another great show today.
He had hit two points from play in the opening half but his day came to a premature end when he was given a straight red card by referee Colm Lyons in the 38th minute.
Some will argue it was harsh – and claim it wouldn’t have been given if it was the other way around – and it was a tough blow on the Borris-Kilcotton man. But he’ll learn, too, from the experience and going up against the likes of Padraic Maher can only stand to him.
Ross King’s goal
Ross King endured a horrible end to the 2018 season when he had to undergo significant dental work following an incident in last year’s county final and the fallout from that saw him opt off the Laois panel having been captain for the last two years.
But he was coaxed back into the set-up by Eddie Brennan after the league and hit a goal in each of Laois’s two outings to Croke Park.
Playing most of the game in a two-man full-forward line, he finished his goal chance brilliantly after great work out the field by John Lennon – who played the sweeper role very effectively again.
Looking to 2020
While Laois’s season is at an end now for 2019, 2020 can be looked forward to with great optimism.
After a two-year absence, they are back in the Leinster championship and will play in the new round-robin format.
They will be away to Kilkenny and Dublin and at home to Galway and Wexford. Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger has hinted that they may increase the number of teams to six for 2021 meaning there would be no relegation in 2020.
But as it stands the bottom team will be relegated, the top two will reach the Leinster final and the team that finishes third will go into the All Ireland Qualifiers.
The Laois County Board will surely be keen to hold on to Eddie Brennan as manager for next season while you’ll be sure that he’ll be keen to keep the current panel together while also adding to it over the winter months.