Laois Shopping Centre Senior Hurling Championship Relegation final
St Lazerian’s Abbeyleix 2-12
By Pat Delaney
FOR the third time in six years Portlaoise have been relegated from the top tier of Laois hurling and on Sunday last they could have had few complaints. Okay, the weather was terrible as it was everywhere else.
Having failed to win any game out of three they knew that they would have to up their performance to overcome Abbeyleix even though they had no championship success either and narrowly escaped last year.
John Hearns Park, Raheen was the venue that attracted a sizeable attendance despite a continuous down pour from start to finish. Eoghan Fennelly and Aaron Bergin traded early points but then a great strike by Liam Delaney had Abbeyleix in front 0-3 to 0-1 with Portlaoise’s second point coming from Aaron Bergin after ten minutes.
Conditions deteriorated in the second quarter but ten minutes before the break poacher supreme Ciaran Byrne came in from the right of the pavilion end goal and, although hooked, he pulled one handed to blast past the Portlaoise keeper.
Aaron Bergin replied from a free and in the closing minutes points were exchanged between Eoghan Fennelly and Cian Taylor leaving Abbeyleix in front 1-6 to 0-5.
Portlaoise made two changes at the interval but first they returned with a new strip. The rain was now falling so heavy they were probably soaking before the throw in for the new half.
Lee Davis gave away to Niall Gleeson in attack. Aaron Bergin raised two white flags and when Keith Murphy added a third after 35 minutes it was game on.
Eoghan Fennelly raised a white flag at the other end and from the puck out added another to settle the Abbeyleix nerves. Then the Abbeyleix mentors made a major change introducing Ciaran Carroll to join his brother Oisin and the two would play a huge role in the Abbeyleix survival.
Portlaoise put in a great move. After Ciaran McEvoy soloed down field he picked out Cian Taylor who split the uprights and the difference was one point.
Ciaran Carroll with his first touch fired over a great point and a great spell yielded points by Ciaran Byrne, Liam Delaney sandwiched in between was a monster of a point by Enda Rowland.
Portlaoise were struggling and trailing by five with eight minutes remaining. Ciaran McEvoy landed a great point as did Aaron Bergin but several other attacks were just brushed aside by a no nonsense Abbeyleix defence if there was man of the match it would be Mark Cahill who put in an enormous shift in the condition.
Portlaoise did not have the same desire although they threw the kitchen sink at their opponents in the second half. In injury time another Portlaoise attack was nipped in the bud and the clearance reached the in-running Ciaran Carroll. He ran 40 metres before unleashing a fierce drive low and it beat the keeper. Game over.
Abbeyleix will be happy because if they can field their first choice early in next year’s championship they will test several opponents and it will be important to retain Kieran Delaney. He certainly has injected determination and belief in the side.
What of Portlaoise? As long as football takes priority they will struggle but they too are capable of testing stronger opposition if they had a full quota but being relegated three times is not good for morale.
ST LAZERIAN’S: Enda Rowland (0-1f); Mark Cahill, Oisin Carroll, Barry Walsh; Aaron Carroll, Alan Lynch, Cathal Doyle; Conor Walsh (0-1), David Bonham; Declan Phelan, Liam Delaney (0-2), Steven Reilly; Eoghan Fennelly (0-6, 0-5fs), Conor Bergin, Ciaran Byrne (1-1).
Subs: Dayne Peacock for Reilly (h/t), Kieran Carroll (1-1) for Bergin (40m), Steven Thompson for Phelan (43m)
PORTLAOISE: Eoghan Nealon; Joe Geaney, Frank Flanagan, Chris Lynch; Ciaran McEvoy (0-1), Padraig O’Neill, Ross Brennan; Gary Bergin (0-2), Dean Lynch; Lee Davis, Aaron Bergin (0-6, 0-3fs), Cormac Rigney; Cian Taylor (0-1), Keith Murphy (0-2), David O’Mahoney(0-1).
Subs: Niall Gleeson for Davis (h/t), Lorcan Duff for O’Mahoney (45m)
Referee: Padraig Dunne (Colt)