Allianz National hurling league Div 1B rd 5
By Pat Delaney
NOT an unexpected scoreline but at least the Laois hurlers finally got to play on a real hurling surface. Maybe the result was not what they would have preferred but they got the taste of what the championship will be like in two months against same opposition.
Having survived the hailstones, sleet, rain and wind in Ennis, then ploughing their way past Carlow in O’Moore Park, they conceded home venue for this game but for these players it was like going into the parlour at UPMC Nowlan Park in beautiful spring sunshine.
This was billed as a dead rubber but Brian Cody teams don’t do dead rubbers, or half-hearted attempts. From the throw-in their body language suggested as much. Their last home game was considered a setback, they did not lose but surrendered a good lead and allowed Clare steal a point.
Brian Cody would have scanned the video and identified mistakes so the bit players realised this was their opportunity to stake a claim for remaining games and the championship.
Laois went out to keep in touch, anything else would be a bonus considering one must go back to 1994 to when Laois last beat the Cats in a league series. That same year they also beat Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup final at Nowlan Park.
On Sunday Kilkenny picked off early points through Billy Ryan and Alan Murphy before Ryan hammered home a goal after just six minutes.
It looked like it might be a runaway before Laois got to grips with points from Ross King and Paddy Purcell. Kilkenny responded with points by Alan Murphy (free) and Eoin Cody but Laois launched a few good attacks that might have yielded goals, unfortunately Ross King and Eoin Gaughan were denied by Darren Brennan in the Kilkenny goal.
Richie Leahy and Eoin Cody increased the hosts advantaged but the Laois defence were doing well until a mistake in the 33rd minute allowed Alan Murphy race inside for a pass from James Maher and hammer past Enda Rowland.
From the puck out Paddy Purcell linked up with Ross King who bore down on goal but his progress was illegitimately halted. Enda Rowland made the journey up field and calmly slotted past the Freshford keeper, who up to that was unbeatable, leaving the scoreboard looking better at the break – Kilkenny 2-15 Laois 1-8.
The visitors would have wind advantage on the resumption and Brian Cody could afford to replace Alan Murphy who had already posted 1-5. Laois began in style and before Kilkenny realised it they had whipped over four magnificent points from Aaron Dunphy, Willie Dunphy, James Ryan and Paddy Purcell.
The margin was down to six points but Kilkenny responded positively. Eoin Cody split the posts five times over the next five minutes, all except one from placed balls. The only interruption was a Paddy Purcell point from play.
Kilkenny were emptying the bench with replacements that have been knocking on the door for a few seasons and they looked hungry. Then big Walter Walsh, not enjoying much luck with Matthew Whelan, was hauled down and from the resultant penalty Eoin Cody made no mistake with a pile driver to deliver the final nail in the Laois coffin.
Laois did not give up. Ger Aylward and Pat Purcell traded points and Eddie Brennan emptied his bench. Good points from play by Eoin Gaughan and Ross King narrowed the gap.
Then a newcomer to Kilkenny panel, James Bergin, he just picked up an All-Ireland medal with Conahy, with his first chance he rifled the sliotar between the uprights.
No complaints from either side. They could have sat down such was the conditions even after 70 minutes hurling. Eddie Brennan knows his native county will be even more eager when he brings his troops back to Nowlan Park on Sunday 17 May.
KILKENNY: Darren Brennan (0-1f); Tommie Walsh, Huw Lalor, Ciaran Wallace; Conor Delaney, Padraig Walsh, Darren Mullen; James Maher (0-2), Alan Murphy (1-5; 0-4f): Martin Keoghan (0-3), Eoin Cody (1-8; 1-0 pen, 0-5f), Richie Leahy (0-1); Billy Ryan (1-1), Walter Walsh, Ger Aylward (0-1).
Subs: Luke Scanlon for Murphy (h/t), Bill Sheehan for Walsh (47m), Michael Carey for Maher (49m), James Bergin (0-1) for Keoghan (56m)
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (1-0 pen); Liam Senior, Matthew Whelan, Donnacha Hartnett; Ronan Broderick, Padraig Delaney, Ciaran McEvoy; Fiachra C Fennell, Colm Stapleton; Aaron Dunphy (0-1), James Ryan (0-1), Pat Purcell (0-3): Ross King (0-7; 0-3f, 0-2 ‘65), Willie Dunphy (0-3), Eoin Gaughan (0-3).
Subs: Jack Kelly for Senior (28m), John Lennon (0-1) for Stapleton (30m), Cian Taylor for McEvoy (63m), Eric Killeen for Ryan (66m), Conor Phelan for Fennell (67m)
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)