By Pat Delaney
AFTER much anticipation on whether Laois were too good for the competition they went out on Sunday to prove they were good enough to win it and take the next step towards a return to the Leinster championship.
After the disappointment of last year the players themselves were determined to prove that they were better than what they showed last year and after five wins on the spin nobody can question their ability and commitment.
Great credit will have to be apportioned to Eddie Brennan and his back room team. When he accepted the position hurling was not in a good place and, not alone did he have difficulty in getting players to commit, he found it hard to persuade people to join his back-room. He did not give up until he had what he thought was a committed bunch and dedicated back-room team.
Like all beginnings there were road blocks and diversions along the way and after the Walsh Cup the league was another step up. The Walsh Cup concluded with Dublin in O’Moore Park and then the league campaign concluded in Parnell Park on a dreadful wet day. Laois preserved their status and now after the Joe McDonagh Cup campaign it’s Dublin again.
Last Sunday was a memorable occasion for the O’Moore County. For the first time since 1983 a Laois man walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand to accept silverware. On that occasion it was the Leinster under-21 hurling decider. The captain that day was Pat O’Brien from Borris-in-Ossory and it was coincidence that on Sunday his father Christy was inducted into the Leinster GAA Hall of Fame.
Back to the game and whatever about the shadow boxing in the dead rubber in O’Moore Park there was none of that in Croke Park. From the throw in Laois were full of determination and the three players who did not figure in O’Moore Park made the difference on Sunday.
That might have caught Joe Quaid by surprise. On the other hand the man knocking on his door all year for a start Darragh Clinton on Sunday he got the call. I’m sure with his speed Quaid had hoped he would have caused difficulties for the Laois defence. But Darragh was withdrawn early without registering a score.
Long before the final whistle the destination of the trophy was decided but nobody was getting carried away. Laois introduced a few fringe players that had got runs during the year and some had suffered injuries. They were determined to make their mark when afforded the opportunity and point taking by both Neil Foyle and Eanna Lyons was top class. To run onto Croke Park and do that is not easy but they made it look like it was every day practice.
And what about Stephen Bergin when he came on? He thought he was just minding the spot until Mark Kavanagh got a change of boots and thinking he would be making his exit when Mark came back on he decided I better do something here to catch the managers eye.
Paddy Purcell ran down the right wing and saw the Clough/Ballacolla man in space and then made haste for the goal before wrapping up the contest with his side’s third goal. These lads will never forget their first day in Croke Park.
Next up is Dublin in the preliminary quarter final and that will be a hard nut to crack. Already they have sent Galway packing from the championship, they shared the points with Wexford and remember they knocked Tipperary out of the league just when they were building up for the championship.