DEFIANT Laois fought a good fight, but in the end they were no match for Adrian Ronan’s men when they took on Kilkenny in the quarter-final of the Leinster minor hurling championship in O Moore Park on Saturday.
A sturdy Laois team put up strong resilience, but the Cats class proved too much in the end as they booked a semi-final place.
Kilkenny got off to a flying start. Eoin Bergin was taken down in front of the Laois goal. Conor Martin stepped up and drilled the placed ball past ’keeper Enda Rowland. Kilkenny nearly had a second goal moments later when a great burst by Shane Donnelly saw him descend on goal, but his shot was well saved by Rowland.
Martin pointed the resulting 65, before a foul at the other end left the way clear for P.J. Scully to open the Laois account. Robert Moran then linked up well with Donnelly and he pointed his first score before a Charles Dwyer free left a goal between the sides again.
Donnelly set up another score when his lay off fell to Diarmuid Cody who pointed. This score meant the entire Kilkenny half forward line had registered during the opening 10 minutes.
P.J. Scully pointed a free for the home side before Moran and Donnelly linked up once more, this time Donnelly benefitting from the cross field ball. Scully then scored his first from play when he won possession before shooting over after 11 minutes.
Just two between them
Within seconds he repeated the act after a foul on Aaron Moore to leave just two between them. Donnelly set up another point, this time for Cody, before Conor Martin struck over another free on the quarter hour mark. Both Donnelly and Scully were causing serious problems, with Kilkenny holding strongest, mostly due to some excellent play by full-back Jack McDowell.
A run by Cian Taylor then exposed the Kilkenny half back line, allowing Charles Dwyer to shoot over in space. A winding run by Eoin Bergin ended with him firing over after creating space in his corner before Conor Martin robbed possession off a defender before putting Kilkenny four up.
Charles Dwyer responded immediately with a great strike. Robert Moran pointed after a lay off from Conor Martin. Kilkenny went into half time leading by 1-9 to 0-7.
Kilkenny had the advantage of the breeze in the first half, and some good score taking had them up by five points. Laois had held on in the first half and withstood the onslaught, scoring in reply with some great points of their own.
The winners drew first blood in the second half through a Conor Martin free before Scully replied for Laois. Michael Donnelly pointed from midfield before Bergin got his second score after a great lay off by Shane Donnelly.
Kilkenny seemed to be cruising. Robert Moran and Shane Donnelly were replaced by David Bourke and Nollaig Brophy in a double substitution. Scully pointed another free for Laois before a superb point from Charles Dwyer spurred his side into a great period of play during which they scored five points without reply.
Back in the game
A low delivery to Ben Conroy saw him draw the foul, allowing Scully an easy opportunity to tap over. A Kilkenny player won possession and started to travel towards the Laois goal. He was shouldered hard, however, and possession fell to Scully, whose long range effort sailed over Dara Holohan crossbar.
Aidan Corby then pointed from wing forward before Scully cut the defecit to a single point after a foul on Corby. Kilkenny seemed to be on the ropes. The backs were under serious pressure.
The introduction of sub David Bourke was an inspired move. He won the next puck-out and was fouled, allowing Martin to restore balance to the winners forwards. Martin then beat his man in the air on the Laois ‘14’. He battled his way past his man to finish to the net with eight minutes left.
This score proved to be the catalyst for Kilkenny to push on. Martin again pointing a minute later from a Bolger delivery. Ben Conroy pointed for Laois, but the game was effectively killed off a minute later by Eoin Bergin, whose point right on the hour mark sealed the win for Kilkenny.
A great performance by Laois fell just short, with the final score not reflecting the true nature of the game. Kilkenny showed great spirit. When the challenge was put up to them, they met it head on.
Kilkenny had to be greatful to Conor Martin, who was in fine form. He turned in a spectacular performance and scored 2-6.
Also prominent performers were Jack McDowell, Michael Donnelly and James Maher.
Scorers: Kilkenny - Conor Martin (2-6, four points frees, goal penalty); Eoin Bergin (0-3); Robert Moran, Diarmuid Cody, David Bourke (0-2 each); Michael Donnelly, Shane Donnelly (0-1 each). Laois - P.J. Scully (0-9, 0-7 frees); Charles Dwyer (0-4, one free); Aaron Corby, Ben Conroy (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - Dara Holohan, Ciaran Doyle, Jack McDowell, Robbie Fitzpatrick, Chris Bolger, Enda Morrissey, James Maher, Michael Donnelly, Kevin Walsh, Conor Martin, Robert Moran, Diarmuid Cody, Kevin Kenny, Eoin Bergin, Shane Donnelly. Subs - David Bourke, Nollaig Brophy, Jack McGrath, Kieran Ryan, Cormac Wafer.
Laois - Enda Rowland, Dwayne Palmer, Ciaran McEvoy, Conor Dunne, Aaron McGowan, Paddy Bergin, Gavin Dunne, Colm Stapleton, C. Taylor, Aaron Corby, Charles Dwyer, Ben Conroy, Aaron Moore, Daire Quinlan, P.J. Scully. Subs - Dean Lynch, John Lennon.
Referee - J. Keeenan (Wicklow).