Controversy as Cuddy's goal knocks out Dublin
LAOIS 1-15 DUBLIN 2-11 AMID scenes of panic and pandemonium, the Laois hurlers booked their passage into the semi-finals of the Guinness Leinster championship at Nowlan Park yesterday.
Even Lazarus would have been embarrassed by this amazing comeback, as Paul Cuddy pounced with the winning goal his first ever in a Laois jersey some four and a half minutes into injury time.
Cuddy's strike could be described as speculative, spectacular or just plain sickening, depending on your allegiance.
But even if he suddenly transforms into a goalscoring machine, the Laois centre-back will never score a more vital one.
Leaving aside round-robin or preliminary matches, this was Laois' first championship win since beating Dublin in 1989 and they can now look forward to a semi-final date with Wexford on June 10.
Estimates vary on Cuddy's exact location when the killer blow was delivered. The player himself afterwards thought he was 20 yards from goal, neutrals in the press box reckoned at least 30 and by the end of the week, folk in Castletown will probably have it down as a 65.
Either way, Cuddy's sweet strike flew directly into the bottom right corner of Brendan McLoughlin's net, despite a valiant full-length dive by one of the Dublin backs.
Amid the ensuing chaos, we still had time for a flare-up involving several players from both sides after Laois corner-forward Fionan O'Sullivan was left prostrate.
Cork referee Ger Harrington eventually restored calm and blew his final whistle shortly after, with the stopwatch indicating around six minutes and 30 seconds of added time.
And not surprisingly, Dublin immediately called foul. In the bad old days of "guess when the final whistle is coming," a goal so late would have been a hugely contentious blow. For Dublin, the insult was compounded by the new time-keeping system which was in place.
Here, as the match entered injury-time, the local PA announced three minutes of additional time. Admittedly, in Harrington's defence, we had two more stoppages before Cuddy delivered his coup de grace, but that failed to dilute Dublin's fury.
There were also mutterings of a free out, possibly for barging, in the lead-up to the goal.
In hindsight, the losers will bemoan their own lack of a killer instinct when it mattered.
When Tomás McGrane pointed a 58-yard free after 52 minutes, they led by 2-10 to 0-10. Laois had been dire throughout the third-quarter, lacking any sign of a fighting spirit and struggling to contain Dublin's quick-silver inside forwards.
And then, with victory in sight, Dublin started to panic. Stupid frees were conceded, allowing David Cuddy to score four in succession and leave just two points in it.
Dublin responded with a Shane Martin point, but it could so easily have been three, as McGrane's initial 40 yard free may well have crossed the goal line before 'keeper John Lyons cleared. Laois rallied again with a Declan Conroy point, setting up the grandstand finish.
In contrast to a frenetic last quarter, the first half had been scrappy with David Cuddy's early dominance of the midfield sector giving Laois the upper hand.
They led by 0-5 to 0-3 after 23 minutes but by this juncture, Dublin had started to motor with Tommy Moore showing well at midfield and Kevin Flynn running amok at corner-forward.
Flynn caught an abundance of ball and finished the half with 0-3 to his name; if he had taken all his chances, his tally would have been doubled at least.
Laois defender Nicholas Lacey, a pre-match injury doubt, endured a nightmare in Flynn's company. The torment continued, even after he switched corners, and he was on the bench for the start of the second half.
By then Dublin led by 1-7 to 0-7, the goal coming after 30 minutes when Gerry Ennis bundled the ball home following a Dave Sweeney flick-on.
Laois may have grumbled that 'keeper Lyons was fouled in the process, but they could have no complaints when Shane Martin ran onto an inviting Ennis pass to smack home Dublin's second goal after 42 minutes.
Soon after, Darragh Spain was denied by a wonder-save from Lyons.
MAN OF THE MATCH David Cuddy (Laois).
SCORERS Laois: D Cuddy 0-10 (9f), P Cuddy 1-0, D Conroy 0-2, F O'Sullivan, D Rooney, D Culleton 0-1 each. Dublin: T McGrane 0-5 (4f), S Martin 1-1, K Flynn 0-3, G Ennis 1-0, D Sweeney 0-2.
TEAMS AND PLAYER RATINGS:
LAOIS J Lyons 7; N Lacey 5, S Dooley 7, D Killeen 6; E Browne 6, P Cuddy 8, J O'Sullivan 7; D Cuddy 8, J Phelan 6; C Cuddy 6, D Conroy 8, O Dowling 6; D Culleton 6, D Rooney 6, F O'Sullivan 6. Subs: R Delaney 6 for Lacey (half-time), J Young 6 for Dowling (45), C Clear 6 for Browne (53). Booked: O Dowling 43, F O'Sullivan 62.
DUBLIN B McLoughlin 7; D Henry 7, S Power 8, J Cullen 7; D Wyse 7, S Perkins 6, L Ryan 7; T Moore 7, C Meehan 6; D Sweeney 7, D Spain 6, S Martin 8; T McGrane 7, G Ennis 7, K Flynn 8. Subs: C Keaney 7 for Moore (53), E Carroll 5 for Ryan (65). Booked: D Spain 7 mins, S Martin 7, T Moore 53, E Carroll 66, C Meehan 74.
REF G Harrington (Cork).
WIDES Laois 13, Dublin 7.