The Laois senior hurlers saw their 2020 campaign ended in Nowland Park this afternoon by Clare.
Eddie Brennan’s charges were 0-27 to 3-17 losers in a remarkable game that went right to the final puck.
Here, we will take a look at some of the main talking points from the game.
1 – Man of the match – Donnacha Hartnett
A couple of candidates here for this one. Captain Enda Rowland made two crucial saves in the first half, Podge Delaney, Fiachra C-Fennell, Aaron Dunphy and Mark Kavanagh were prominent too – as was Lee Cleere.
But we’ve gone for corner back Donnacha Hartnett who was on the dangerous Shane O’Donnell and held him scoreless.
When Clare went down to 14 men, O’Donnell came out the field and that only seemed to make Hartnett more prominent as he routinely robbed him off possession and set up Laois scores. A fine display.
2 – Refereeing decisions
Referee Thomas Walsh, on the advice of his linesman, issued David McInerney with a straight red card for an off the ball incident involving Mark Kavanagh close to have time – but after that, it didn’t seem like the Waterford man gave much more to the O’Moore side.
Paddy Purcell possibly should have been awarded a penalty in the second half but after speaking to his umpire and linesman, referee Walsh signalled for a free.
There was also a very high challenge on Purcell that only resulted in a yellow and then right at the end of the game, referee Walsh signalled for full time just as Laois had won a free that, if taken, would’ve given them the chance to force extra time.
Mr Walsh certainly wasn’t the reason Laois lost, but some of his calls didn’t help.
3 – Injuries hamper Laois
Laois have not been fortunate with injuries this year and the curse struck them once again in this game.
Already without John Lennon, Ronan Broderick and James Ryan, Laois lost Ross King to a hamstring in the first half when he had 1-2 scored and was going well. Stephen Maher came on for him but he had missed out on the starting 15 with a knee problem and did not look 100% either – eventually being replaced before the end.
4 – Gifting Clare scores at crucial times
There were two major moments where this game ultimately got too far away on Laois.
The first was in the period after the water break in the first half where Clare outscored them by nine points to three.
And the second, when they had an extra man, came in the period after Laois’s second goal from James Keyes where they drew to within two points of Clare only to concede five unanswered points.
Most of the scores were through their own errors too and led manager Eddie Brennan to say afterwards that they handed the game to Clare rather than Clare actually winning it.
5 – Emergence of new players
Throughout the year, manager Eddie Brennan has introduced a number of new players who all made contributions.
Colt-Shanahoe’s James Keyes scored a brilliant goal today while Ciaran McEvoy also provided a point from the bench. Mark Hennessy, Liam Senior and Diarmaid Conway also made appearances at different stages between league and championship too.
6 – Eddie Brennan
It is vitally important that every effort is made to retain the services of Eddie Brennan as Laois manager.
Laois were in disarray when he arrived here and in two years he has turned them into a team fighting for Joe McDonagh relegation into a team who can compete, and sometimes beat, some of the top tier sides in the country.
In an interview after the game, Brennan wasn’t against the idea of staying but he did raise several issues which you’d imagine would have to be resolved before that would happen – and hopefully they can be.
7 – What’s next?
Well that is it for 2020 but what will come next is anyone’s guess.
The GAA are currently working on a 2021 fixture schedule. Laois are due to be in Division 1 of the league and will compete in the Leinster championship once more. But what format and when these games actually occur won’t be known for a while yet.