Leinster Minor Hurling Championship Preliminary q/f
By Pat Delaney
LEINSTER Council have tried every angle under the sun to try and improve the standard in the weaker counties but the latest tweak has hardly changed matters.
Indeed, Westmeath were probably glad to hear the final whistle in O’Moore Park on Friday evening. They began their campaign here over a month ago and took a battering but victory over Carlow was enough to see them qualify to meet the O’Moores again.
By the fourth minute Laois had five points on the board all from play, then free taker Adam Kirwan opened his account. Team captain Tadgh Cuddy posted his third in the seventh minute. Laois had their first wide from an Adam Kirwan 65.
If things were not bad enough for the visitors, Noah Quinlan delivered a free from his own half-back line, the Westmeath keeper gathered but somehow the ball slipped through his hand and into the net.
The game was still only 11 minutes old but Westmeath were wide on their foray into Laois territory but their best player centre-forward Shane Williams pointed a free at the end of the quarter.
Dylan Carroll did likewise from 50 metres before his midfield partner Thomas Keyes soloed downfield and fed a perfect pass to Cian O’Shaughnessy. His effort was well saved by the visiting keeper but when the ball came back out the Ballinakill man made no mistake. Now 13 points separated the teams and there was still ten minutes to go to the break.
Shane Williams added a second point from a placed ball, both frees awarded as the referee indicated that the Laois player had thrown the ball, but what was different to 20 other hand passes?
Westmeath made their first change replacing their full forward but after Adam Kirwan was fouled he added his second point. Westmeath midfielder Matthew Glynn then got his side’s only point from play.
Cian O’Shaughnessy and Thomas Keyes added points while full forward James Duggan closed the first half scoring with the scoreboard reading 2-12 to 0-3 in favour of the hosts.
On their return Laois had replaced three players that had shown enough. One of them, Adam Kirwan looked shaken after a heavy tackle before the break that resulted in his marker shown a yellow card.
Tadgh Cuddy, who had an excellent first half, resumed where he left off with a great point inside a minute. Shane Williams converted two frees but in between Laois sub DJ Callaghan opened his account in the 34th minute.
Over the next five minutes the Clonaslee man added a brace now on free taking duties and in between David Dooley added his second from play. Tadgh Cuddy and Cathal O’Shaughnessy added to their totals.
Shane Williams added a Westmeath point after 40 minutes. That was to be the last Westmeath score despite introducing several replacements.
Laois introduced Kevin Mulhall and Padraig Rafter and both added to the scoreboard with excellent strikes from play. DJ Callaghan brought his tally to four when he scored from play in the 52nd minute. David Dooley continued his rich scoring with two well struck points while Cian O’Shaughnessy brought the twins total to 1-5.
James Duggan and midfielder Dylan Carroll brought their totals to three and two respectively as the clock moved towards full time but there would be one more piece of action. The Harps man barged his way in a long the end line on the Abbeyleix road side, then in close to goal he fired a powerful shot into the roof of the Westmeath net.
The referee played two minutes injury time without any additional scoring.
This was Laois’s fourth outing and all were convincing victories with the exception of the Kildare game when they trailed late on by five points but two late Adam Kirwan points secured a narrow victory.
Laois will now face either Wexford or Offaly and that will be a real test. Offaly had Wexford on the rack but then allowed a soft goal.
Laois management have used many players in the campaign it will be interesting to see who will be on the starting 15 next time out. On Friday they were much the better team even though they were giving away to a much more physical side.
Dublin and Kilkenny are the two strong teams and look superior to all others but I’m sure Enda Lyons would love to pit his charges against either. They certainly will not be lacking in shooting practice.
LAOIS: Darragh Lyons (Ballyfin); Lawson Obular (Abbeyleix), Dan Brennan (Park/Ratheniska-Timahoe), Ian Shanahan (Ballinakill); Cian Conroy (Clonaslee/St Manman’s), Fionan Mahony (Abbeyleix), Noah Quinlan (1-0 Borris/Kilcotton)); Thomas Keyes (0-1 Camross)), Dylan Carroll (0-2 Rathdowney/Errill)); Cathal O’Shaughnessy (0-2 Ballinakill), David Dooley (0-4 Rosenallis), Tadgh Cuddy (0-6 Castletown); Cian O’Shaughnessy (1-3 Ballinakill), James Duggan (1-3 Harps), Adam Kirwan (0-3fs Mountrath).
Subs: DJ Callaghan (0-4, 0-2 ’65, 0-1f Clonaslee) for Kirwan (h/t), Eoin Naughton (Portlaosie) for Shanahan (h/t), Kevin Mulhall (0-1 Clough/Ballacolla) for T Keyes (h/t), Brian Bredin (Mountrath) for Mahony (46m), Padraig Rafter (0-1 Rathdowney/Errill) for Cuddy (49m)
WESTMEATH: Jamie Mulkearns; Eoin Murray, Zach Ahearne, Eoin Rhattigan; Cian Gavigan, Ciaran Cleere, Colm Murray; Ciaran Daly, Matthew Glynn (0-1); Aaron Hill, Shane Williams (0-5fs), Ben Harte; Conor Murphy, Brian Farrell, Pierce Weir-Norris.
Subs: Evan Scally for Farrell (20m), Eamon Martin for Harte (28m), Dean Swords for Gavigan (36m), Liam Murtagh for Hill (40m), Sean Power for Glynn (51m)
Referee: Shane Guinan (Offaly)