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Battling Laois to aim for 'Moore of same

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Galway captain Fergal Moore prepares to clear under pressure from John Brophy, Laois. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Galway captain Fergal Moore prepares to clear under pressure from John Brophy, Laois. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Galway captain Fergal Moore prepares to clear under pressure from John Brophy, Laois. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

GALWAY might have won, but nobody was really talking about them after this. Not unusually for a hurling match, the margin was a little harsh on the vanquished side.

Make no mistake about it, Laois were in with a chance of winning this right up to the dying minutes and might well have done so had a few things gone their way.

In the end, Galway had Joe Canning, who contributed 11 points for his side. And it was probably no coincidence that they responded with goals when the threat was greatest in the final quarter, to eventually see off their gritty opponents.

Anthony Cunningham was delighted with the test ahead of a Leinster final, but he was more than happy to praise a Laois unit that has made huge strides after a number of years peppered with annihilations.

"Laois were very good, very gutsy; their tackling, their workrate ... they took some great scores from out the field," said the Galway boss.

"It's great for hurling to see Laois back playing like that. That game will sharpen us up a lot. I'd like to congratulate Laois on the year they are after having so far – long may it continue."

Down the hall, his counterpart Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett wasn't looking for any pats on the back. Nor was he deluded into thinking that Laois had finally arrived.

"We wanted to win the match," Plunkett asserted. "I thought we set ourselves up well at the start of the match, but when we pushed on, we probably left a little gap or two.

"The pace and speed of hurling, prior to today, we were trying to guess where that place was. Certainly after today we know where it is, we're very confident we can live in this company, but I suppose what's really important is what the team is going to do from now on.

"Do they really want to keep improving and keep working here? I believe they do. But that will only be told first of all in the next couple of weeks.

 

Important

"It's important to bear in mind we are only building and developing a team here. Along that journey we're going to be playing some Tier One counties. We've got to face them down, really have a go at them. We'll learn a lot as we go along.

"We're not interested in moral victories. I wouldn't say what I'm saying about this county if I didn't think we were going to win matches. That would be very loose and false talk.

"I think, after today, people will believe that there's enough technically-gifted hurlers in Laois that can live in this company.

"I've no doubt there's going to be another day we're gonna get a beating somewhere along the way, get hopped off the ground. We'll climb back up again and some stage in the next year or two, we'll be a competitive team."

They were competitive yesterday and Plunkett deserves huge praise for overseeing such a turnaround. He deserves praise, too, for devising a game-plan that involved Cahir Healy playing as a sweeper and swamping the middle third to deny Galway's runners any space.

They shot from distance with a strong wind in the first half and not one of their opening four points – they went 0-4 to 0-0 ahead – were from inside 60 metres.

The players applied the game-plan perfectly, hurling excellently at pace, while tearing into challenges with a near-manic, but just-on-the-right-side-of-the-line, aggression and intensity.

They received a standing ovation going in at half-time leading by 0-8 to 0-7 and the roof nearly lifted off the covered stand when Tommy Fitzgerald arrived on the shoulder of Neil Foyle to take a pass and send the net rippling in the 57th minute.

That put Laois in front, but less than 60 seconds later, Canning's shot was saved by Eoin Reilly and Davy Glennon was on hand to slot the rebound.

It was still only a one-point game when Aonghus Callanan's shot squirmed over the line less than seven minutes from time and that ultimately ended the heroic Laois resistance.


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