By Pat Delaney
THE good crowd in O’Moore Park on a cold but dry Saturday evening were treated to a cracking good game, and one of Laois’ better performances in recent years.
Laois were rank outsiders not having beaten the Tribesmen in 15 years and, while Galway may not have fielded all their big names, they still paraded a talented bunch with both league and championship medals in their pockets since last year’s great run.
Laois were boosted by the return from injury of Lee Cleere in defence but still no Cha Dwyer and the attack craved someone of his calibre.
Galway had been hard pressed by Antrim six days earlier but secured victory with a late flurry of scores. They started off as if they did not want to be caught again but their first two attacks finished badly wide.
However within three minutes a great Galway move involving Conor Cooney ended with All Star Conor Whelan beating Enda Rowland from close range.
Laois responded with an excellent point by Eric Killeen with Ross King adding a brace to level matters after seven minutes.
Aiden Harte and David Glennon pointed for the champions. Ross King posted his third but Galway midfielder Padraig Brehony replied from distance.
Laois were hurling well at this time but Galway were guilty of some poor shooting.
Then the home team hit a purple patch. Ross King added two more and sandwiched in between it was a great pass from King to set up Willie Dunphy for an excellent score and the O’Moores were in front after 20 minutes.
Laois then had a great goal chance but Ben Conroy was hooked as he was about to pull the trigger. Somehow a free out was awarded which led to Conor Cooney opening his account.
Laois hit back with two more points from Dunphy and Ross King but both sides were guilty of missed opportunities before a fracas erupted in front of the stand.
When matters cooled down Carlow referee Pat Murphy issued a straight red card to Galway defender Greg Lally and Laois midfielder James Ryan, already on a yellow card, was sent off on a second yellow.
However, the player and the Laois management protested that it was a case of mistaken identity but the referee was not for turning.
Tempers were frayed now and Laois were awarded a free from 50 metres which Enda Rowland converted but from the puck out another defence opening play saw Padraig Mannion set up Whelan and he blasted his second goal leaving the Tribesmen in front 2-6 to 0-10 at the end of the opening half.
The second half saw Laois replace two of their starting forwards bringing on debutant James Keyes and Pat McKane.
Laois opened the scoring with a free by Ross King after five minutes but Galway replied with two in a row by Sean Linnane and a magnificent score from Conor Cooney.
Laois now enjoyed another great spell with King posting three points, all from placed balls and the teams were level 2-8 to 0-14 after 45 minutes.
Galway responded with points from Padraig Mannion and Conor Cooney but again King kept Laois in touch from a placed ball leaving a point separating the teams, but that was as good as it got for the home team.
Joe Cooney landed an excellent point from play and he went on to add two more. King and Aiden Harte traded points and Laois sub Mark Kavanagh somehow squeezed the ball inside the post to cut the margin back to three with six minutes remaining.
Galway pulled away with further points from Aiden Harte and Joe Cooney.
Laois might still have been much closer but they hit four bad wides in the closing minutes and remain pointless after two outings but a vastly improved performance from the opening day defeat to Limerick.
GALWAY: James Skehill; Adrian Tuohy, John Hanbury, Shane Bannon; Greg Lally, Padraig Mannion (0-4, 0-1f), Aiden Harte (0-3); Johnny Coen (0-1), Padraig Brehony (0-1); Sean Linnane (0-1), Joe Cooney (0-4), Cathal Mannion; Conor Whelan (2-0), Conor Cooney (0-3, 0-1f), Davey Glennon (0-1).
Subs: Brian Concanon for C. Mannion (50m), Niall Burke for C. Cooney (60m), Shane Cooney for Linnane (62m)
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (0-1f); Lee Cleere, Leigh Bergin, Donnacha Hartnett; Padraig Lalor, Matthew Whelan, Eric Killeen (0-1); James Ryan, Pat Purcell; Aiden Corby, Ben Conroy, Cian Taylor; Ross King (0-12, 0-8f, 0-1 65), Neil Foyle, Willie Dunphy (0-2).
Subs: James Keyes for Taylor (h/t), Sean Downey for Corby (h/t), Mark Kavanagh (0-1) for Conroy (52m), Pat McKane for Foyle (60m), Joe Phelan for Bergin (69m)
Referee: Pat Murphy (Carlow)