The Laois U-20 footballers make the short trip to Netwatch Cullen Park on Friday night for the Leinster final against Dublin and though they go in as massive underdogs, they bring with them a proud tradition of Laois underage teams turning over the Dubs in Carlow.
Back in the mid 2000s, Laois had one of the most admired underage setups in the country, one that saw Laois win Leinster minor titles in 2004, 2005 and 2007 and an All Ireland final 2003.
They followed that up by winning Leinster U-21 titles in 2006 and 2007, when they came agonisingly close to All Ireland glory only to be denied by a late Cork goal.
Across those years, one of the teams they came up against regularly was Dublin – and for three years in a row they ended Dublin’s championship at minor level.
In 2003, the sides met three teams with Dublin winning the Leinster final before they then drew in the All Ireland final in Croke Park.
The replay was in Carlow and in front of a packed house, Laois claimed their third All Ireland minor title in eight years.
And it was a result they would repeat in each of the following two seasons.
We look back at those three games here, all of which took place in Carlow.
Laois 2-10 Dublin 1-9
All Ireland MFC Final Replay
Two weeks earlier the sides drew in Croke Park when sub David Murphy pointed the equaliser deep in injury time.
The replay in mid-October saw Dr Cullen Park packed to the rafters, with Laois making up the bulk of the attendance.
And after Laois led narrowly at the break, 1-4 to 0-6, they kicked on brilliantly in the second half to win 2-10 to 1-9, with Dublin’s late goal a consolation.
Of the 17 players that started for Laois that day, 15 of them would go on to play senior championship football.
Dublin’s return wasn’t as fruitful with only Ger Brennan and Mark Vaughan establishing themselves at senior. Midfielder John Coughlan was one of their better players at the time – but he later went on to play briefly for Offaly under the parentage rule.
LAOIS: Conor Gorman (Clonaslee-St Manman’s); Cahir Healy (Portlaoise), Cathal Ryan (Portarlington), Rory Stapleton (Annanough); Peter O’Leary (O’Dempsey’s), Colm Begley (Stradbally), Niall Donoher (Courtwood); Craig Rogers (Portlaoise), Brendan Quigley (Timahoe); Chris Bergin (The Heath), Colm Kelly (Stradbally), Peter McNulty (Portlaoise); Michael Tierney (Ballyroan), Donal Brennan (Arles-Killeen), Colm Kelly (St Joseph’s). Subs: Ian Fleming (Graiguecullen) for Kelly (Stradbally), David Murphy (Portarlington) for Tierney
DUBLIN: Kieran Walsh; Aidan Downes, Kian Cleere, Willie Lowry; Ciaran Murtagh, Gerard Brennan, Ian Ward: Brendan Phelan, John Coughlan; Mark Vaughan, Francis Fitzgerald, Gerard O’Meara; John O’Hara, Kevin Leahy, Barry Kennedy. Subs: James Brogan for O’Hara, David Walsh for Downes, Michael Hallows for Murtagh, Willie Moore for Fitzgerald
Laois 3-7 Dublin 1-9
Leinster MFC semi-final
As reigning All Ireland champions, Laois’s team in 2004 was as star-studded as a minor side could get – with eight of the team still underage and most of the rest having been part of the 2003 panel.
After a huge win over Meath in Navan in the opening round, Laois met Dublin in the semi-final on a Wednesday night. And such was Laois’s reputation at the time that a massive crowd again rocked up to Dr Cullen Park.
And while Laois were a bit below their best, they still had too much for Dublin with Michael Tierney scoring two goals and Donie Brennan getting one.
The midfield pairing on the Dublin team was Paul Flynn and Michael Dara McCauley, two players who would go on to win multiple senior All Irelands while a 17-year-old Diarmuid Connolly was wing-forward – though replaced at half time.
Tomas Brady would go on to play hurling and football for Dublin while goalkeeper Michael Savage would become Stephen Cluxton’s understudy for a while and also win an All Ireland club with St Vincent’s, as would Tiernan Diamond.
That season Laois would later go on to beat Kildare in the Leinster final, Cork in the All Ireland quarter-final after a replay before narrowly going down to Kerry in the semi-final.
LAOIS: Eoin Culleton (Timahoe); Cahir Healy (Portlaoise), Mark Timmons (Graiguecullen), Bryan Meredith (O’Dempsey’s); Kevin Smith (Graiguecullen), Colm Begley (Stradbally), Niall Donoher (Courtwood); Brendan Quigley (Timahoe), Craig Rogers (Portlaoise); Enda Butler (St Joseph’s), Ian Fleming (Graiguecullen), Stephen O’Leary (O’Dempsey’s); Michael Tierney (Ballyroan), Donie Brennan (Arles-Killeen), David Conway (Arles-Kilcruise) Subs: Brian Dunne (Portlaoise) for Smith, Shane O’Neill (Graiguecullen) for Dunne
DUBLIN: Michael Savage; Ian Kavanagh, Donnacha Reilly, John McCaffrey; John O’Brien, Robert Fitzgerald, Shane O’Rourke; Paul Flynn, Michael Dara McCauley; Diarmuid Connolly, Tiernan Diamond, Michael Hallows; Blaine Kelly, Tomas Brady, Russell Cleere. Subs: James Power for Fitzgerald, Kevin Moran for Connolly, Darragh Pelly for Cleere, Colin Daly for McCauley, Gavin Finch for Brady
Laois 3-8 Dublin 1-7
Leinster MFC semi-final
The good times continued for Laois football in 2005 – and they continued on all levels.
In March, Portlaoise reached the All Ireland club final. In May, Knockbeg won the All Ireland ‘A’ colleges final.
In the summer Laois seniors and minors continued to get big wins and give us big days out.
On a Sunday evening in July, the minors had seven points to spare over Dublin to reach another Leinster final.
By this stage Sean Dempsey, after two great years as minor manager, had moved on to U-21 and Andy Shortall was over the minors.
The Heath’s Daithi Carroll scored 2-4 on this occasion with Sean O’Shea also getting a goal.
While this Laois team would go on and beat Offaly the following week in the Leinster final (for the third year in a row Laois were in both minor and senior finals), they were later beaten by Kerry in the All Ireland quarter-final.
Many of the players are still involved in club football in Laois – and while a handful made senior league appearances and as a sub in the championship, Carroll was the only one to go on to start a senior championship game.
By contrast Dublin had a few high-profile starts in the making. Kevin Nolan, who was centre-back that night, was on the team that won the All Ireland in 2011 while five of their starting six forwards – Diarmuid Connolly, Paddy Andrews, Darren Daly, Tomas Brady and Philly McMahon would play senior championship for the Dubs, as would sub Ross O’Carroll.
Brady and John McCaffrey would also go on to win Leinster senior hurling medals with Dublin.
LAOIS: Darren Maher (Stradbally); Paddy Fleming (St Joseph’s), Mark Delaney (Park-Ratheniska), Kevin Smith (Graiguecullen); Richard Ryan (Ballylinan), Brian Meredith (O’Dempsey’s), Simon Shortall (Annanough); Shane O’Neill (Graiguecullen), Cathal Og Greene (Park-Ratheniska); Stephen O’Leary (O’Dempsey’s), Jack Fennell (Portlaoise), Scott Conroy (Ballyroan); Sean O’Shea (Arles-Kilcruise), Kieran Delaney (Park-Ratheniska), Daithi Carroll (The Heath). Subs: Adrian Whelan (Portarlington) for Meredith, Joe Delaney (Portlaoise) for K Delaney, Diarmuid O’Flaherty (Mountmellick) for O’Shea, Sean Ramsbottom (Timahoe) for Conroy.
DUBLIN: Eoin Somerville; Keith Manly, Adam Keaney, Alan Hubbard; Cillian Byrnes, Kevin Nolan, Russy Cleere; John McCaffrey, Barry Cullen; Shane O’Rourke, Diarmuid Connolly, Paddy Andrews; Darren Daly, Tomas Brady, Philip McMahon. Subs: Ross O’Carroll for Cullen, Cathal Morley for O’Rourke, Conor Connolly for Manly, Joey Bland for McMahon.