King sets up sequel after Laois exhibition
Rathdowney 2-26 Borris 2-26 Laois SHC Final
Laois are currently searching for a new senior hurling boss and if any potential successors to Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett were in O'Moore Park yesterday, they'll be kicking down the door to step into the hotseat.
Breath could barely be drawn after a pulsating opening half, which produced a remarkable 34 scores as Borris-Kilcotton and Rathdowney-Errill went in level, 2-14 to 1-17. Fittingly, the sides also couldn't be separated after an enthralling second period.
The first 20 minutes was as good as any hurling played this year, with both attacks ruling the roost in a shoot-out which resembled the club equivalent of the epic 2014 drawn All-Ireland SHC final between Kilkenny and Tipperary.
When Borris-Kilcotton's two-goal hero Neil Foyle buried to the net in the 45th minute and put clear daylight between the sides for the first time at 2-21 to 2-16, it looked like a maiden title for his side until Rathdowney produced a stirring finale.
With Ross King and Tadgh Dowling pointing from all angles they kept the scoreboard operators busy in the final quarter and it was left to county star King to come up trumps deep into injury-time with his 14th point in a scintillating display.
Borris-Kilcotton boss Ken Hogan made a beeline for referee John Lalor - who played 45 seconds over the allotted three minutes of injury-time despite no late substitutes - to show him his watch, before later admitting that a draw was more than fair as they look towards next week's replay.
"We were upset about the time delay and a lot of steps taken, but that's all part of the game. We move on to next weekend and from everyone's point of view a draw was a fair result," Hogan said.
"It was a super game of hurling. It's fantastic for Laois hurling to be in the limelight. Both teams went at it hammer and tongs and there were tremendous scores from both teams. It's fantastic that we get a second bite at the cherry."
His counterpart Brian Young, an U-21 All-Ireland winner with Kilkenny, praised the skill on display and Rathdowney-Errill's never-say-die attitude to come back from the brink.
"What a game, I don't think anyone was expecting that, especially the first-half. It was just end-to-end, very free-flowing with a lot of scores. Fair play to both teams for producing that," Young said.
"You were never going to get that much intensity in the second-half, but both teams stayed at it. And in fairness to our boys it looked like it was gone, but they showed a lot of guts to come back and get the draw."
The availability of Laois forward PJ Scully despite a quad injury was a huge boost to Hogan's underdogs and they settled into their stride quickly before John Purcell volleyed to the Borris net in the seventh minute.
They responded brilliantly through Scully, however, and raced into a four-point lead with Foyle scoring a sublime goal after controlling a high delivery one-handed and drilling the sliotar past Noel Brennan to leave it 1-8 to 1-4.
Neither side could miss in attack and 2014 champions Rathdowney were level within seven minutes after a flurry of scores from King, Liam O'Connell and Dowling. O'Connell then hit the onion bag, but Borris replied with scores from exciting youngster Aaron Dunphy and Foyle to leave nothing separating the sides after an extraordinary half.
The second 30 minutes could never live up to what preceded it, but it wasn't for the want of trying and when a brace of Scully frees and another green flag from Foyle opened a sizeable gap, it looked like a historic first Laois SHC crown for Borris-Kilcotton, who only amalgamated in 2011.
However, with Joe Fitzpatrick leading the charge from defence, Young's side refused to lie down.
King was enjoying the freedom of the park at centre-forward, while Dowling sent over three in a row to level it. Scully pointed a free and Foyle sent over what looked like the insurance score deep into injury-time, but King had the last laugh with two nerveless points to send it to a replay.
SCORERS - Rathdowney-Errill - R King 0-14 (8f), T Dowling 0-6, L O'Connell 1-2, J Purcell 1-0, J Kelly 0-2, J Ryan and D Poynton 0-1 each. Borris-Kilcotton - PJ Scully 0-12 (11f), N Foyle 2-2, A Dunphy 0-4, J Campion and P Whelan 0-3 each, E Fitzpatrick and J Fitzpatrick 0-1 each.
RATHDOWNEY-ERRILL - N Brennan; J Creagh, B Campion, J Corrigan; J Keane, J Fitzpatrick, E Killeen; P Purcell, D Poynton; J Kelly, L O'Connell, J Ryan; J Purcell, R King, T Dowling. Subs: A Delaney for Killeen (38), S Dollard for P Purcell inj (40), E Meagher for Kelly (45), P McKane for Poynton (47)
BORRIS-KILCOTTON - E Fleming; S Finan, B Stapleton, N Delaney; C Stapleton, M Whelan, J Fitzpatrick; P Whelan, D Fitzpatrick; E Fitzpatrick, J Campion, D Quinlan; A Dunphy, PJ Scully, N Foyle. Subs: S Dunphy for J Fitzpatrick BS (44), J Fitzpatrick for S Dunphy BS (46), S Dunphy for Quinlan (47), C Kilbane for D Fitzpatrick (56), B Meade for J Fitzpatrik
REF - J Lalor