Wexford 2-27 Laois 2-16
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
The Laois hurlers made their first appearance in O’Moore Park since that magical win over Dublin last summer and for the best part of an hour they gave Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford side plenty of it before eventually running out of steam late on.
On a typically wild January evening, Laois brought the same work ethic that defined their big games last summer.
And despite starting with only seven of the players that featured in that All Ireland quarter-final loss to Tipperary (while Wexford had 12 of their team beaten by Tipp in the semi-final), Laois gave it a right good go in the first half.
Playing with a strong wind, Enda Rowland’s monstrous puckouts were an attacking weapon for Laois. On one occasion he landed one in the Wexford squae; a couple of times he linked up brilliantly with Ross King in the full-forward line. For good measure he even pointed a whopper of a free from just outside his own ’21.
King, too, was very impressive, playing in a two-man full-forward line with Stephen Bergin as Laois again opted to go with a sweeper with Donnacha Hartnett mostly playing the role.
King caused plenty of problems for Wexford full-back Liam Ryan and hit four points in the first half and could have had a goal. Paddy Purcell had a goal chance too but Laois did hit the back of the net in the 15th minute when the ever hard-working Willie Dunphy finished past Mark Fanning after great work from his Clough-Ballacolla clubmate Bergin.
The free-taking of Jack O’Connor kept Wexford moving for most of the half but Laois nudged two points clear in the 32nd minute following another King free and a fine point from play.
But Wexford, who had been error-ridden throughout the first-half, struck for two goals in injury time, the first from Conor McDonald after he got inside Ryan Mullaney and the second from Aidan Nolan.
The last act of the half though went to Rowland, who played a one-two with Mullaney from a puckout and walloped it downfield. Mark Fanning fumbled it and ended up in the net. At half time, Wexford led 2-10 to 2-8 after 35 very entertaining minutes.
Wexford had the wind in the second half but Laois continued to compete very well for the most part with King again asking questions of a succession of Wexford defenders.
Three missed frees in quick succession (two from King and one from Rowland) didn’t help their cause and by the midway stage of the half, Wexford were 2-16 to 2-10 clear.
Slowly Davy Fitzgerald’s men pulled clear with the Foleys, the O’Connors, Conor McDonald, Cathal Dunbar and Paul Morris finding the range.
In the end Wexford had 11 points to spare. The final score was a bit harsh on Laois but such is life at hurling’s top table.
Still there were plenty of positives for Laois.
A trip to Parnell Park to play Dublin awaits next Sunday.
SCORERS – Laois: Ross King 0-11 (seven frees), Enda Rowland 1-1 (0-1 free), Willie Dunphy 1-0, Aaron Bergin 0-1, Jack Kelly 0-1, Eoin Gaughan 0-1, James Keyes 0-1 Wexford: Jack O’Connor 0-6 (all frees), Conor McDonald 1-3, Paul Morris 0-4, Rory O’Connor 0-3, Paudie Foley 0-3 (frees), Cathal Dunbar 0-3 Aidan Nolan 1-0, Liam Og McGovern 0-2, Kevin Foley 0-2, Shaun Murphy 0-1
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohue, Liam Ryan, Joe O’Connor; Damien Reck, Shaun Murphy, Paudie Foley; Kevin Foley, Jack O’Connor; Liam Og McGovern, Rory O’Connor, Aidan Nolan; Aidan Rochford, Conor McDonald, Paul Morris. Subs: Cathal Dunbar for Nolan (48), Harry Kehoe for J O’Connor (62), Shane Reck for Donohue (65), Seamus Casey for R O’Connor (67), Jack Cullen for D Reck (68)
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (Abbeyleix); Liam Senior (Clonaslee), Ryan Mullaney (Castletown), Donnacha Hartnett (Mountmellick); Jack Kelly (Rathdowney-Errill), Podge Delaney (The Harps), Ciaran McEvoy (Portlaoise); Fiachra C Fennell (Rosenallis), Ciaran Comerford (The Harps); Aaron Bergin (Portlaoise), Paddy Purcell (Rathdowney-Errill), James Ryan (Rathdowney-Errill); Ross King (Rathdowney-Errill), Willie Dunphy (Clough-Ballacolla), Stephen Bergin (Clough-Ballacolla). Subs: Frank Flanagan (Portlaoise) for Comerford (38), Eoin Gaughan (Camross) for Dunphy (52), James Keyes (Colt) for A Bergin (52), Allan Connolly (Ballyfin) for Senior (65), Colm Stapleton (Borris-Kilcotton) for Kelly (67)