Rathdowney-Errill’s dreams of reaching their first ever Leinster final were ended in cruel circumstances in Carlow this afternoon.
Instead it was St Mullin’s who made history as they progressed to their first provincial decider against Ballyhale Shamrocks in two weeks time.
Here, we delve deeper into today’s game to see where it was won and lost:
1 – Man of the Match – Mark Kavanagh
Marty Kavanagh and James Doyle were outstanding for St Mullin’s too but Mark Kavanagh was unquestionable Rathdowney-Errill’s best player today.
With a heavily strapped right leg, he struck 12 points with four of them coming from play and his workrate was simply incredible. Sadly for him and his team though, it wasn’t enough.
2 – Sweeper system
St Mullin’s played with a sort of a sweeper system throughout the game and you would have to say they got more joy out of it than Rathdowney-Errill did.
Initially, corner forward Jason O’Neill dropped out the field leaving Ger Coady to sweep and also leaving James Doyle and Paddy Boland inside while in the second half, he moved in and Doyle dropped back where he contributed four points – including the final two. They also limited Rathdowney-Errill to just two goal chances – both of which came in the first half.
3 – Goals and goal chances
No team carved open the Rathdowney-Errill defence this year like St Mullin’s did today.
Even with John Purcell left free at the back for Rathdowney-Errill, St Mullin’s direct style of running was extremely difficult to handle and they could easily have had five goals instead of two. Keeper Damian Madden made two brilliant saves while Brian Campion made a goal saving block in the second half.
4 – First half wides corrected
St Mullin’s were slightly on top in the first half but they headed for the dressing rooms one point behind Rathdowney-Errill due to their inaccuracy.
They hit seven wides in comparison to Rathdowney-Errill’s two but they corrected this in the second half and only added two more – that improvement was crucial for the victors.
And nowhere was it more evident that in the final two minutes when James Doyle scored two absolutely brilliant points with the finest pieces of skill you will see.
5 – Great to see Laois teams on TV
The TG4 cameras were stationed above my head for the game and anyone who watched the game on TV was certainly treated to an absolute spectacle.
Despite the game being shown on TG4, a very big crowd still made their way over to Carlow to shout on Rathdowney-Errill and while they will be disappointed to lose – they were still highly entertained.
6 – Press facilities in Netwatch Cullen Park make you long for O’Moore Park
We are very lucky in Laois to have a ground like O’Moore Park that has absolutely first class facilities.
For a huge game like this, working as part of the media in Netwatch Cullen Park is very difficult. For a start there is no WiFi and then in the area we were situated, there were only four sockets with power for all of the 15 or so journalist to work in.
And from yours truly, a big thank you to Pat Nolan of the Irish Mirror because without his assistance in providing me with his hotspot and double adapter – there would have been no live blog today!
O’Moore Park tends to get a lot of big matches and it is for having facilities that grounds like Netwatch Cullen Park do not have that is a big factor in why they do.
7 – End of a great year for Laois hurling
Rathdowney-Errill’s defeat today brings hurling in Laois to an end for 2019 – save for the U-20 Shield competition between Rathdowney-Errill, Castletown and Borris-Kilcotton.
On an inter-county level, the year began with a National League quarter final appearance and ended with Joe McDonagh Cup success, a win over Dublin and a loss to eventual All-Ireland champions Tipperary in Laois’s first All-Ireland quarter final in 40 years.
Paddy Purcell was named Joe McDonagh Cup Player of the Year while Enda Rowland and Jack Kelly received All-Star nominations.
Laois will play in the Leinster hurling championship next year and hopes are high that Eddie Brennan’s men can make a mark.