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Leinster U-20 hurling semi final spot up for grabs as Laois head to Nowlan Park to face Kilkenny

Ollie Hally’s Laois U-20 hurlers are back in action this evening as they aim to take a place in the Leinster semi final.

Nowlan Park is the destination for a clash with Kilkenny and the bookies have the home side priced at 1/20.

But if the events of the last 14 days are anything to go by, this group of players are anything but predictable.

In Round 1, Laois were 15 points ahead of Westmeath at the start of the second half but threw it all away and needed a last gasp point to force extra time.

When the game went there, they conceded an early goal and looked in real trouble again only to stage a remarkable comeback and win the game.

James Duggan top scored with 3-5 while Mossy Keyes showed nerves of steel at crucial times as Laois advanced by six points in the end.

Last week, Laois took on Antrim in Round 2 in Navan and this game was far less dramatic.

As with the Westmeath, Laois built up a huge lead by half time – but this time they did not throw it away.

James Duggan was class again – scoring two more wonderful goals to add to his collection.

While centre forward Tadhg Cuddy was flawless from frees and play – finishing the game with 14 points as Laois won 4-27 to 0-7.

Over the course of the two games, a number of players have shone – and when you consider just five of the starting 15 from those games are overage next year, it shows how well the team has done.

Only Lorcan Fitzpatrick, Allan Connolly, Thep Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Byrne and Mark Hennessy are ineligible to play once again next year – and all of those have played very well this year.

Cathal Murphy and Podge Brennan, who were minor last year, have competed very well at this level.

Ian Shanahan, Danny Brennan, Niall Coss and Ciaran Burke are fine, athletic defenders while Mossy Keyes in midfield makes the team tick.

Gearoid Lynch and Tadhg Cuddy carry a scoring threat on the half forward line while the full forward line of James Duggan, Ciaran Byrne and Mark Hennessy are electric.

Captain Fionan Mahony has shaken off a hamstring injury and is now fit to start with the aforementioned Brennan dropping to the bench.

As for tonight’s opponents, Kilkenny have not actually played yet as they received a bye to this stage.

At minor level in 2018, Laois and Kilkenny actually met in a group game with the Cats winning 1-26 to 1-12. 

Kilkenny went on to reach the Leinster final where they were involved in a crazy game with Dublin.

Kilkenny lost 6-19 to 7-12 but went on to reach the All-Ireland final through the back door where they lost 0-21 to 0-14 to Galway.

This meeting is the nineteenth at this level and Laois’s most recent success was in 1978.

The last meeting was the U-21 Leinster final of 2012 as Kilkenny, led by Walter Walsh, won 4-24 to 1-13.

Should Laois advance, they will play either Galway or Dublin in the semi finals next week.

With a restricted crowd due at the game, we will bring you all the action as it happens via our Live Blog.

LAOIS: Lorcan Fitzpatrick; Ian Shanahan, Allan Connolly, Danny Brennan; Fionan Mahony, Ciaran Burke, Niall Coss; Thep Fitzpatrick, Tomas Keyes; James Duggan, Tadhg Cuddy, Gearoid Lynch; Ciaran Byrne, Mark Hennessy, Cathal Murphy

Subs: Sean Fitzpatrick, Bryan Bredin, Pádraig Brennan, Lawson Obulor, Rian Edwards, Dan Delaney, Conor Walsh, Eamon Fitzpatrick, Eddie Critchley

SEE ALSO – Talking Sport Podcast: Laois hurl up a storm, minors bow out, first win for young jockey – and Euros come to an end

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.