Monday 23 April 2018

Enigmatic Laois switch from woeful to wonderful

LAOIS have cleared the first two fences in the Guinness Leinster hurling championship, but frankly neither they, nor we, are any the wiser as to how well equipped they are to cope with higher barriers, encountered at greater intensity.

LAOIS 3-16


LAOIS have cleared the first two fences in the Guinness Leinster hurling championship, but frankly neither they nor we are any the wiser as to how well equipped they are to cope with higher barriers, encountered at greater intensity.

A big win over Carlow two weeks ago was followed by a sweeping dismissal of Meath in Tullamore yesterday, but the scoreline disguises some worrying realities for Laois, who lost the first 33 minutes by 1-5 to 0-3 in a performance which majored in errors.

Little wonder manager Sean Cuddy unburdened himself of some stinging words at half-time. "We had to do something about it because we weren't playing anywhere near the level we can," he said afterwards.

Laois had pilfered a goal by Damien Culleton just before half-time to cut the deficit to 1-5 to 1-3 and we can only surmise as to whether it was the impact of that stabilising score or Cuddy's verbal blast which brought about the second half transformation.

Whatever the source, Laois were a changed side after the break, which they won by 2-13 to 0-2.

Meath's challenge melted in the searing summer sun and, to add to their misery, top scorer Nicky Horan was sent off for a foul on David Cuddy in the 51st minute. It wasn't a particularly nasty pull, but as Horan had been booked five minutes earlier, the ultimate sanction was inevitable.

Meath were trailing by 2-7 to 1-6 at the time and while the momentum had swung Laois' way, Horan's dismissal had a profound impact on proceedings. A hero against Kildare eight days previously when he scored 2-15, Horan had scored 0-6 from frees at the time of his sending off, bringing with him Meath's rapidly diminishing prospects of victory.

"Nicky was a terrible loss to us. An extra man on a hot day like that was a huge advantage," said Meath manager John Davis. "Laois were getting on top at the time but once we were down to fourteen men, we had no chance.

"It's terribly disappointing to lose like that. We felt we had a good chance of winning but, in fairness, to Laois they were brilliant in the second half," he added.

So which is the real Laois then? The edgy outfit who shot 12 first half wides or the cool sophisticates of the second half who fired in some wonderful scores?

"I hope it's the second half team. Our shooting was awful in the first half and it could have cost us dearly but once we got a rhythm going, I thought we did very well," said Sean Cuddy, who will begin planning immediately for the next assignment against Dublin on Sunday week.

The fact that Dublin haven't exactly been shaking up the championship betting will be a source of encouragement for Laois who had plenty to offer when they got their game going.

Team captain David Cuddy didn't enjoy one of his better days with his free-taking, but he was superb in all other dimensions. Fionán O'Sullivan hardly registered in the first half but gave an electrifying second half performance, scoring 0-5 from play, while sub James Young also impressed in attack.

Declan Conroy, Paul Cuddy, John O'Sullivan and Seamus Dooley also had a good day for Laois.

Mark Gannon, Anton O'Neill, Paul Donnelly, Charlie Keena, Fergus McMahon and goalscorer Neville Reilly had some excellent moments for Meath who were ultimately worn down by a stronger Laois unit.

"You need to be able to play at the same level for 70 minutes. We didn't do that and paid the price. Maybe it we hadn't conceded the goal just before half-time, it might have been different but it seemed to lift Laois while we never got going at all after the break," reflected John Davis ruefully.


@@STYL el,1 SCORERS Laois: D Cuddy 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-2f, 0-1 '65), F O'Sullivan 0-5, J Young 1-1, G Culleton 1-0, D Rooney 0-2, J O'Sullivan, N Lacey, D Conroy 0-1 each. Meath: N Horan 0-6 (6f), N Reilly 1-0, P Potterton 0-1.


LAOIS S Lyons 7; P Mahon 7 , S Dooley 8 , D Killeen 8; N Lacey 7, P Cuddy 8, J O' Sullivan 8; D Conroy 8, J Phelan 7; C Cuddy 7, D Cuddy 9 , O Dowling 6; F O'Sullivan 8, D Rooney 7, D Culleton 8. Subs: E Browne 7 for Mahon (30), J Young 8 for Dowling (49), C Cleere 7 for C Cuddy (57).

MEATH M Gannon 8; A O'Neill 8 , D Murray 7, M Mullen 6; T Reilly 6, P Donnelly 7, C Keena 7; R Dorran 7, J Canty 6; J Donoghue 6, F McMahon 8, N Horan 7; K Dowd 6, P Potterton 6, N Reilly 7. Subs: B Perry 7 for Mullen (42), B Murray 7 for Donoghue (46), M Cole 7 for Canty (48), D Troy for Dowd (69).

REF D Kirwan (Cork)

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