Kevin Egan reports from Tullamore
FOUR YEARS AFTER beating Offaly in senior championship hurling for the first time in 43 years, Laois repeated the trick this evening in Tullamore, and just as it was in the league this year, the final margin was four points but could easily have been far more.
Wastefulness and a failure to convert territorial and possession dominance into scores almost proved fatal for the O’Moore county here but in the end they outlasted the Faithful County, despite coughing up a six-point lead midway through the second half.
Laois will look back on 17 wides, a number of missed goal chances and several other wasted chances and wonder how they left Offaly in the game so long, but they’ll be able to reflect on that in some comfort after a late Stephen Bergin goal gave them what could turn out to be a crucial victory.
In the first half they played with whatever breeze was in it while they also had the setting sun at their backs, but 11 of their wides came in that half as Offaly hung in there, largely through a first-half tally of 1-2 from Oisín Kelly.
Kelly was the only Offaly forward who consistently caused problems for the Laois defence in that time, while at the other end of the field all six starting Laois forwards scored from play.
Mark Kavanagh was also in superb form from frees, which made the level game at half time, 0-13 to 1-10, seem like a winning position for Offaly. Instead, Laois picked up steam after half time and soon took control through goals from Paddy Purcell and Charles Dwyer.
They briefly fell asleep however and Offaly roared back into the game, with goals from Kelly and Conor Mahon helping them to move a point in front after 63 minutes. However in a game that ebbed and flowed, the last tide of the day lapped in favour of the Laois men.
Ross King set up one point for Kavanagh and fired over another of his own, before Bergin pounced on a breaking ball and fired in from close range in the 69 th minute.
A series of lengthy injury stoppages meant that there was over ten minutes of added time still to play, but while Offaly sent in several high deliveries into the Laois square, Joe Phelan, Matthew Whelan and Ryan Mullaney all came up with heroic interventions to preserve a crucial win for Eddie Brennan’s side.
Scorers for Laois: Mark Kavanagh 0-11 (0-8f, 0-1 sideline), Charles Dwyer 1-3, Eanna Lyons, Paddy Purcell 1-1 each, Ross King 0-4, Stephen Bergin 1-0, Willie Dunphy, Conor Phelan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Joe Bergin 0-11 (0-7f), Oisín Kelly 2-3, Conor Mahon 1-1, David O’Toole Greene, Colm Gath, Niall Houlihan, Colin Egan, Kevin Dunne, Conor Longton 0-1 each.
1. Enda Rowland
2. Donncha Hartnett
4. Joe Phelan
3. Matthew Whelan
9. Jack Kelly
6. Ryan Mullaney
7. Lee Cleere
8. John Lennon
5. Padraig Delaney
10. Charles Dwyer
11. Willie Dunphy
13. Mark Kavanagh
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12. Paddy Purcell
14. Eanna Lyons
15. Ross King
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20. Conor Phelan for Lennon (48)
22. Neil Foyle for Lyons (58)
21. Aaron Dunphy for Kelly (63)
25. Stephen Bergin for Dunphy (66)
17. Eric Killeen for J Phelan (70+8)
1. Eoghan Cahill
4. Paddy Rigney
7. Ben Conneely
2. Tom Spain
5. Colm Gath
6. Pat Camon
3. Niall Houlihan
8. David O’Toole-Greene
9. Kevin Dunne
15. Cillian Kiely
13. Shane Dooley
12. Colin Egan
11. Conor Mahon
14. Joe Bergin
10. Oisín Kelly
20. Conor Langton for Kiely (58)
25. James Gorman for Dooley (66)
17. Dermot Shortt for O’Toole Greene (69)
Referee: Colum Canning (Antrim)
The day’s other Joe McDonagh Cup game saw Antrim run out comfortable winners by 3-19 to 0-14 over Kerry.
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