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From Leinster final hero to a hospital bed – the hard-luck story of a Laois football captain

Laois captain Chris Conway celebrates his late point to leave the scores level in the 2004 Leinster final
Laois captain Chris Conway celebrates his late point to leave the scores level in the 2004 Leinster final

There have been many hard luck stories for Laois GAA players and teams over the years but few have experienced going from an incredible high to a low point as much as Chris Conway did in 2004.

Having missed the memorable 2003 season due to injury, he was the Laois captain in 2004 on the back of Arles-Kilcruise’s famous county final success the previous winter.

And he duly stepped up to the leadership plate, playing a real captain’s part as Laois came from behind against Westmeath in the 2004 Leinster final – with Conway kicking the equaliser in the final moments.

The replay was fixed for the following Saturday evening, back in Croke Park again, but instead of leading Laois out the tunnel and possibly lifting the trophy, Conway watched the game from a hospital bed in Portlaoise after having his appendix removed.

It was such a blow both for him and the team and one that remains vivid in his mind as he looks back on his career.

Surreal

In an interview with LaoisToday last year, he recalled those couple of days.

“A definite low point was missing the 2004 Leinster final replay,” he said.

“Missing 2003 was tough but I was captain in 2004 and was dreaming of leading the team out and lifting the cup.

“But to go from playing in the drawn game and the high of scoring the point that levelled it to watching the replay on TV from a hospital bed was surreal.”

He described how he trained with the team on the Thursday night, their last get-together before the replay, before he began to feel unwell.

“Our last get together was on Thursday night in O’Moore Park and we went down for food to Declan in O’Loughlin’s after training.

“At home I started getting an awful pain in my stomach that night and thought I was after getting food poisoning or something.

Chris Conway with young Laois supporters ahead of the 2004 Leinster football final

“At about half five in the morning, I got my mother to bring me to CarDoc in Carlow and the doctor there told me he didn’t think it was my appendix and gave me an injection which eased the pain.

“I went home and got a couple of hours sleep and then went over to Dr Aidan Hanson in Mountmellick who was the Laois doctor at the time.

“He told me to bring a urine sample and I knew from that it wasn’t good.

“I remember meeting the great Laois supporter Tommy Tynan from Clonaslee on the street in Mountmellick on the Friday and he was full of the joys.

“He was ‘horse this and horse that’ and on about the point I’d scored the previous week and looking forward to the replay.

“But I knew in my heart of hearts that I was in bother.”

Hospital bed

“Aidan sent me to the hospital. They waited as long as possible to see but the appendix was going to burst and they had to operate.

“Micko and Declan and some of the lads came in to visit me before they headed to the game and I watched it all wired up.”

Laois lost that game by 0-12 to 0-10 with Kevin Fitzpatrick seeing a last-minute goal chance go narrowly wide.

“The wires were well pulled out by the time Kevin Fitz missed the goal chance to level it,” he added.

Westmeath manager Paidi O Se is congratulated by fans after victory over Laois in the replayed 2004 Leinster final

Conway would return to the Laois team to play in the 2005 Leinster final loss to Dublin though he again missed another Leinster final in 2007 when he tore his hamstring a week before the game.

His bad luck before big games continued at club level where he broke his arm in the 2009 club semi-final with Arles-Kilcruise though he did play in the final loss to Portlaoise.

You can read the full interview here. 

SEE ALSO – Check out our full series of Sporting Memories interviews here

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