Sunday 25 February 2018

Whelan brace helps Tribe shake off dogged Laois

Galway 2-18 Laois 0-17

Leigh Bergin of Laois in action against Conor Whelan of Galway at O'Moore Park. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Leigh Bergin of Laois in action against Conor Whelan of Galway at O'Moore Park. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Rory Delaney

Galway picked up their second win of their Allianz NHL Division 1B campaign last night as they saw off a stubborn Laois side in O'Moore Park.

For the second week in-a-row the All-Ireland champions found the going tough against inferior opposition as Laois put Galway to the pin of their collar at times.

They led for long spells of the first half, and were within a score of Micheál Donoghue's side for most of the second as well, until a late flourish from the visitors gave them a margin of victory they didn't really deserve.

After their lacklustre display against Antrim the week before, Galway needed to start strongly to show that was just a once-off, and that was exactly what they did. With a little over two minutes played, Davy Glennon won the ball on the left wing and raced through the Laois defence, before offloading to Conor Whelan, and the Kinvara man made no mistake.

Galway's Conor Cooney battles with Leigh Bergin of Laois. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Galway's Conor Cooney battles with Leigh Bergin of Laois. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Laois could have buckled at that stage but with a strong wind at their backs they showed a lot of maturity to work their way back into the game. Eric Killeen pointed from the right wing, and then two points in two minutes from captain Ross King brought them level.

With Galway struggling to find any fluency after their early goal, Laois kept pushing forward and went ahead with King floating over a 65.

That prompted a response from Galway and they flexed their muscles as Aidan Harte, Glennon and Padraig Breheny rattled off three points between them in three minutes as they took control of the game once more.

King led the Laois revival again though, as he fired over a free and Willie Dunphy scored from play to push Laois into the lead.

The home side were starting to get on top in midfield but should have been further ahead but Ben Conroy and Neil Foyle wasted good goal chances.

As the half ticked towards stoppage time, a scuffle broke out in midfield, the result being that Greg Lally was given a straight red for Galway, and James Ryan received a second yellow, and red, for Laois.

Ross King of Laois in action against Galway's Adrian Tuohy. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Ross King of Laois in action against Galway's Adrian Tuohy. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

That flashpoint suited Galway, and from being three down, 0-10 to 1-4, they scored 1-2 in added time, Whelan again providing the goal, as they led 2-6 to 0-10 at the interval.

With wind advantage, Galway were expected to pull clear but again Laois refused to buckle, even after Galway extended their lead to three early in the half.

Led by the outstanding King, they continued to bring the fight to Galway who were just about managing to pick off enough scores to stay ahead. Conor and Joseph Cooney were to the fore but they were far from their brilliant best.

It fell back on their half-back line a few times to bail them out of trouble, with Padraig Mannion's free-taking and Harte's accuracy from long range resulting in some timely scores.

With Laois unable to provide enough support to King, they eventually ran out of steam, but it was still a commendable effort from a side in the midst of an injury crisis.

The challenges only get bigger for Galway from here and they have much improving to do.

Scorers - Galway: C Whelan 2-1, J Cooney 0-4, P Mannion (fs), A Harte, C Cooney (1f) 0-3 each, D Glennon, S Linnane, P Breheny, S Cooney 0-1 each. Laois: R King 0-12 (8f, 65), W Dunphy 0-2, E Killeen, M Kavanagh, E Rowland (f) 0-1 each.

Galway: J Skehill; A Tuohy, J Hanbury, S Bannon; G Lally, P Mannion, A Harte; J Coen, P Breheny; S Linnane, J Cooney, C Mannion; C Whelan, C Cooney, D Glennon. Reps: B Concannon for C Mannion (51), N Burke for C Cooney (58), S Cooney for Linnane (60).

Laois: E Rowland; L Cleere, L Bergin, D Hartnett; P Lawlor, M Whelan, E Killeen; J Ryan, P Purcell; A Corby, B Conroy, C Taylor; R King, N Foyle, W Dunphy. Reps: J Keyes for Taylor (h-t), S Downey for Corby (h-t), M Kavanagh for Conroy (52), P McCane for Foyle (57), J Phelan for Bergin (71, inj)

Ref: P Murphy (Carlow)

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