EMOTIONAL scenes greeted the final whistle of the Joe McDonagh Cup final in Croke Park on Sunday after Laois cruised to victory with a comprehensive win over Westmeath. Years in hurling wilderness had finally come to an end.
Players raced around the pitch hugging and embracing before heading to the seating area to celebrate with family and friends. Yes, it was that type of day, one that many thought they would never see.
Ascending the steps of the Hogan Stand, captain Paddy Purcell was greeted by a cacophony of sound rarely heard at Laois games. So loud was the din that at times it was hard to hear the skipper as he made his acceptance speech.
The Rathdowney/Errill player continued the character of the afternoon when he beckoned fellow clubman Pat Delaney up the steps to assist him in raising the cup. Delaney has given his life to Laois as a player, referee and has been the hurling team’s bag man for numerous years.
By winning the Joe McDonagh Cup, Laois have earned the right to compete in the Leinster championship proper next year and on the evidence seen on Sunday, they should be well able to compete.
It has been a magic turnaround for Laois under Eddie Brenna. The former Kilkenny great has fine-tuned this side, which is now playing hurling to a standard that hasn’t been seen in the county for many years.