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Leinster final and All Ireland series to come for magic minors

Laois minor hurlers
The Laois minor hurlers celebrate with Buff Egan after their win over Kilkenny on Saturday

Having knocked out Wexford and Kilkenny from the championship on successive weeks, the Laois minor hurlers now have a Leinster final to look forward to against Offaly.

While initially scheduled for Nowlan Park next Saturday, the game has been moved to Monday night, May 16, with Portlaoise or Tullamore set to be the venue.

The counties have agreed to toss for venue to see who’ll have home advantage and the Monday night time slot will allow for the game to be shown live by TG4.

A win for Laois would send them into an All Ireland semi-final though a loss wouldn’t mean their season is finished. Instead they’d go into a quarter-final round robin group alongside Galway and the beaten Munster finalists (Clare or Tipperary) with two to advance to the semi-finals.

Yesterday’s win over Kilkenny was their fifth Saturday in a row to be in championship action – and there’s plenty more to come yet.

Declan Qualter’s side have beaten Kildare, Westmeath, Wexford and Kilkenny so far with their only blip coming against Offaly in the group stages when Offaly were 1-20 to 1-17 winners.

Qualter, a Galway native who played with Dublin before moving to Laois, is in his second season in charge of Laois and having been knocked out by Kildare in the opening round last year, many of the same players have come back to feature in this campaign.

Former Waterford manager Derek McGrath is involved in the coaching team and has been very visible on matchdays while Tom Brennan, Damien Carter and Tadhg Doran are all key members of the backroom team too.

That loss to Offaly sent Laois into a preliminary quarter-final against Westmeath where they’d to come back from an early eight-point deficit to win 2-15 to 0-17.

They then recorded a dramatic win over Wexford in the quarter-final before holding off Kilkenny, 1-15 to 0-15, in the semi-final for a first win over the Cats since 1964.

Kilkenny were going for a third Leinster minor title in a row and a 60th overall.

You have to go back to 1964 for Laois’s last Leinster final success at this age grade though they’ve since lost finals in 1966, 1978, 1990, 1991 and 2013.

Offaly topped Laois’s group and have since beaten Antrim and Dublin to reach their second final in three years. They were beaten by Kilkenny in 2020 but you have to go back to 2000 for their last provincial success at this level.

Offaly are managed by former Limerick player Leo O’Connor who has former Offaly legend Johnny Pilkington among his backroom team, as well as former Portlaoise player Martin Cashen, who served as a Garda in Laois for many years.

Backboned by six players from a very strong Kilcormac-Killoughey underage setup, Offaly include four dual stars in their team. Donal Shirley, Cillian Martin, Shane Rigney and Niall Furlong were all part of the minor football team that easily beat Laois last Wednesday and have a semi-final against Dublin to look forward to this week.

All told it sets up an intriguing Leinster final between the midland neighbours.

While the minor grade doesn’t seem to hold the same status for the GAA as previously with 12noon Saturday throw-ins for most of the games, a Monday night slot for the final and no Croke Park or high-profile curtain raiser, it is still a huge deal for Laois and Offaly.

Laois GAA has been in a bad need of a good news story and these young men have certainly provided.

Here’s hoping it’s only the start of it.

SEE ALSO – Check out all our ACFL Division 1A coverage here

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.