Galway 2-37 Laois 0-21
Henry Shefflin must be wondering what he has let himself in for with this inter-county management gig.
Galway hurlers may have secured seven points out of eight so far in the Leinster round-robin, the last brace of points coming from this second-half demolition of Laois in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Saturday night.
And yet his team still have to at least draw with Dublin next Saturday to nail down a place in the Leinster final. A Dublin win and a Kilkenny win over Wexford and Galway would not be in the final.
Fat chance you say, after Dublin got spanked in their own backyard by Kilkenny on the same evening, but Shefflin was having none of it.
“All I’m thinking of is January 16 last, when Dublin beat us 3-29 to 0-19 in the Walsh Cup,” he recalled. “If anyone thinks we’re going to coast to a win over Dublin, they have another thing coming. We remember that scoreline and we’ve work to do.”
Galway had work to do in the second half of this match, after Laois had reeled in Galway’s blistering start to the extent that there were only six points between the teams at half-time. But in the second half, Galway’s combination play, and superior fitness and craft, did for Laois.
Cathal Mannion bagged a total of eight points from play, Tom Monaghan got six and Conor Whelan and Joe Cooney produced the second half goals that sent Galway clear on the scoreboard.
There was even time and space in that second half surge for Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy to come out from his goal and send the sliotar soaring over the Laois crossbar from all of 95metres. It was that sort of second half for Galway.
Shefflin had nice words for his midfielder Monaghan after the match. “He has this happy habit of being able to find a pocket of space, even in the crowded middle third, and being able to take his point. That’s a good skill to have.”
Yes it is and it will come in handy for Galway later in the season when the opposition is of a higher standard than they encountered here. Paddy Purcell and Cha Dwyer scored good points for Laois when they kept the game close in the first half, but Cheddar Plunkett’s men were just blown away by that Galway second half turbo-charge of power, pace and accuracy.
Laois have been cursed with untimely injuries, meaning good hurlers like Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher and Willie Dunphy have taken no part in the round-robin and this was Ross King’s first start since picking up an injury on opening night against Dublin. While Dwyer, with three points to his name here, had to go off just before half-time. A minnow simply cannot afford all that bad luck.
Now Laois face into a relegation battle at home to Westmeath next Saturday, a Westmeath team surely buoyed by their display and draw against Wexford. Laois now have to win that match or else they go back into the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2023.
Scorers – Galway: C Mannion 0-8; C Cooney 0-7 (5f); T Monaghan 0-6; C Whelan 1-2, J Cooney 1-2; C Fahy, P Mannion, D Morrissey 0-2 each; E Murphy, B Concannon, J Grealish, F Burke, E Niland (f), J Flynn 0-1 each. Laois: R King 0-4 (3f); P Purcell (f) 0-4 each; C Dwyer, R King (3f), J Keyes 0-3 each; E Rowland (f) J Kelly, S Downey, T Keyes 0-1 each.
Laois – E Rowland 6; P Dunne 5, S Downey 6, D Hartnett 5; R Mullaney 5, C McEvoy 6, F Fennell 5; J Kelly 7, A Corby 6; P Purcell 8, C Dwyer 8, J Keyes 7; B Conroy 5, R King 7, M Dowling 5. Subs: PJ Scully 6 for Dowling (17), C Byrne 5 for Dwyer (33), E Killeen 5 for Mullaney (54) T Keyes 6 for Conroy (60) F Flanagan for McEvoy (70).
Galway – E Murphy 6; J Grealish 8, Daithi Burke 6, D Morrissey 8; P Mannion 8, G McInerney 6, F Burke 6; J Cooney 8, T Monaghan 8; David Burke 6, C Cooney 7, C Fahy; C Mannion 9, C Whelan 8, B Concannon 7. Subs: R Glennon 6 for David Burke (51), TJ Brennan 7 for Daithi Burke (57)E Niland 5 for C Cooney (58), J Coen 6 for Morrissey (64), J Flynn 6 for Whelan (65).
Ref – S Cleere (Kilkenny).
Man of the match
Cathal Mannion (Galway)
Mannion was deadly, using the Laois tactic of playing with a sweeper to ease into spaces.
Laois had 25 great minutes in this one but they just cannot go the distance for a championship 70 minutes.
Conor Whelan’s goal was a great finish, turning brilliantly to flash the sliotar to the Laois net from a very tight angle.
Laois 11 (5); Galway 11 (6)
Laois 1 (Cha Dwyer); Galway 0
Galway must get a draw at least against Dublin next Saturday to seal a Leinster final berth. Laois must beat Westmeath to stay up.