Electric Ireland Leinster MHC: Offaly bridge a 22-year gap
Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Final
OFFALY 0-21 LAOIS 0-13
Kevin Egan at MW Hire O’Moore Park
Offaly bridged a 22-year gap between Leinster minor hurling titles, or indeed between provincial hurling titles at any level, when they produced a powerful all-round performance to overcome their neighbours in an historic Electric Ireland Leinster minor final at MW Hire O’Moore Park this evening.
Sensational semi-final wins for the home side over Kilkenny and for the Faithful County against Dublin had sent the midlands into fever pitch in advance of this fixture, and there was no surprise when the throw in was delayed by ten minutes to accommodate a crowd of over 12,000 people at the Portlaoise venue.
Every supporter certainly got value for money in a thrilling opening half that Offaly edged by 0-9 to 0-7, though that narrow lead understated their dominance, as Laois played with the aid of a quite strong breeze for that opening 30 minutes.
Inaccurate shooting was part of the problem for the home side, as they shot nine first-half wides, but a huge amount of credit must also go to Offaly’s remarkable defensive work, in particular their half-back line of Donal Shirley, Ter Guinan and Brecon Kavanagh, who cleared a world of ball and made life incredibly difficult for their direct opponents.
The majority of scores in the opening half came from frees from Adam Screeney and Ben Deegan, but there was still an incredibly high level of quality to the play as superb scores from play from Guinan, Screeney and Cillian Martin helped Offaly move into an early lead.
Ciarán Flynn and Tom Cuddy held their ground incredibly well along the spine of the Laois defence and that protected Brochan O’Reilly’s goal, but far too many of the Laois shots on goal were struck from distance, leading to their mounting wide count.
Offaly’s second half wide tally may have matched that of their opponents in the opening 30 minutes, but once the sides turned around, the flow of the play was almost entirely towards the town end goal. Team captain Dan Ravenhill got through a mountain of work in the middle third of the field, raining a host of shots on the Laois goal from distance. The Durrow player struck 0-3, albeit adding four wides, but Offaly also succeeded in mixing in some excellent short range passing, to create good chances close to goal.
A deft handpass from Adam Screeney set up a good score for Shane Rigney, Donal Shirley joined the attack to pop over a great score from the left wing, and when Ter Guinan’s hard work opened the door for Cathal Robinson to dummy his marker and split the posts from 55 metres, Offaly were in control and realistically just needed to keep out the goals to prevail.
Laois hit a short spell of form in the middle of the half when consecutive scores from Deegan and Cormac Byrne brought them back to within three points, but they were quickly reduced to hopeful deliveries into a fiercely crowded goalmouth, and even when they did create half-chances for goals, Caelum Larkin stepped up for the Offaly men with two brave and vital blocks.
As the game moved into the closing minutes, Adam Screeney won a free which he popped over for his tenth point, and then the away supporters could really relax after Rigney, making light of the fact that he suffered a tough defeat to Dublin with the county minor footballers just five days ago, sprinted out of defence and then fired the ball over the crossbar from midfield to crown the victory.
The win means Offaly get the chance to recharge in advance of the All-Ireland semi-finals, while Laois will join Clare and Galway in the round robin series, hoping to get back alongside their two neighbours, Offaly and Tipperary, in the last four of the championship.
Scorers for Offaly: Adam Screeney 0-10 (0-8f), Dan Ravenhill 0-3, Shane Rigney 0-2, Ter Guinan 0-1, Cillian Martin 0-1, Leigh Kavanagh 0-1, Donal Shirley 0-1, Conor Doyle 0-1, Cathal Robinson 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: Ben Deegan 0-10 (0-7f, 0-1 sideline), Jer Quinlan 0-1, Jack Breen 0-1, Cormac Byrne 0-1.
Offaly: Liam Hoare; Caelum Larkin, James Mahon, Rúairí Kelly; Ter Guinan, Brecon Kavanagh, Donal Shirley; Cillian Martin, Niall Furlong; Leigh Kavanagh, Dan Ravenhill, Conor Doyle; Cathal Robinson, Shane Rigney, Adam Screeney.
Subs:Paddy Dooley for Guinan (29 - HT, temp), Shane Connolly for Martin (60), James Liffey for Doyle (60+1)
Laois: Brochan O’Reilly; Bobby Murphy, Ciarán Flynn, Joseph Pearson; Thomas Brennan, Tom Cuddy, Cormac Hogan; Andrew McDonagh, Kevin Byrne; Ben Deegan, Liam Kirby, Jack Breen; Eoghan Cuddy, Jer Quinlan, Cormac Byrne.
Subs: Eoghan Murphy for McDonagh (37), Aaron Carroll for Kirby (37), Rory Kelly for E Cuddy (51), Justin Duggan for Breen (59).
Referee: Caymon Flynn (Westmeath).