Croker beckons for happy Hoban

There was no looking beyond the immediate challenge, but Kilkenny minor hurling manager Pat Hoban was happy his side had a final to prepare for.

There was no looking beyond the immediate challenge, but Kilkenny minor hurling manager Pat Hoban was happy his side had a final to prepare for.

“We were delighted to get the win,” he said in the aftermath of Saturday’s semi-final success over Laois. “That’s what we came up to do, but it’s great to get back to Croke Park.”

While semi-finals can be tough affairs, Hoban was satisfied that his side had played to their best when it came to getting the better of the hosts in O’Moore Park.

“It was one of those tricky games,” he said. “There was such a big, big prize at stake. Laois were well up for it, but we got over the line.”

The Cats made several changes for the game from their facile win over Carlow, but the alterations didn’t affect the side.

“We’ve been unfortunate with injuries,” the manager said. “Anyone who was at the match would have seen a few of our players on crutches.

“On top of that we’ve had 10 of our panel doing the Leaving Cert right up to the day before the game,” he added. “We had to be fair to those guys and didn’t want to put any additional pressure on them by starting them in the game.

“We played with whatever breeze was there, but that worked in our favour,” he continued. “We got some very good scores early on and our forwards moved really well.”

In what proved to be a free-scoring game for long spells, the forwards more than played their part.

Do Damage

“I felt that if we got the ball in early that our forwards would do damage,” he said. “At the other end Laois had some good forwards too but we knew that. They proved as much; I felt we left them in the game when they got a couple of nice scores before half-time. The gap was probably a little bit tight for my liking.”

Kilkenny also excelled further out the field, where midfield pairing Conor Browne and Luke Scanlon impressed.

“The two Village lads really drove us on,” the manager said. “Luke has done very little hurling since the end of the colleges campaign what with hamstring and shoulder injuries, but he was up to it out there. Both midfielders really gave their all.”

Kilkenny went in four points clear at the break, where the message from the mentors may have been to kick on. Instead Laois closed to within two points!

Amazing start

“We had an amazing start to the second half where a point was disallowed (the second half was restarted after referee Michael Murtagh began play without noticing Laois goalkeeper Paul Simms hadn’t taken to the field) then we missed a goal chance,” Hoban recalled. “We could have had 1-2 on the board within five minutes of the second half, yet we found the gap was back to two points - that was a bit too close!

However, the side knuckled down, their hard work being rewarded when Alan Murphy goaled following an incisive team move.

“Looking on it’s great to see your side get a goal - any goal - but when you see a nice move which was well finished it was great,” the manager said.

Laois may have tailed off after that, but Kilkenny didn’t let up.

“Any time a team are within three of four points of you it’s a little too close,” he said. “They sneak a goal, then with the crowd behind them they could make a charge and you’re in trouble. We were five or six points up so I was confident we could hold on.”

Having already lost to Dublin this year some may feel that Kilkenny have unfinished business with the Dubs, but Hoban doesn’t see it that way.

“We never looked beyond the semi-final,” he said. “We just wanted to make the Leinster final and didn’t look at who we could be playing. It’s Dublin - we’re delighted to get another rattle at them.”