While Ireland muddled its way through another less than perfect summer, four hurlers from Laois could at least live the dream of hurling in a championship final on a perfect day when they contested the Brisbane city final in Australia last month.
With young people from all around the county forced abroad in recent years in search of work, plenty have brought their hurls as well as their tools and degrees with them. Brisbane is just one Australian city which has seen an influx of Irish immigrants, and the local hurling clubs have benefitted, with Laois hurlers in particular thriving in their new surrounds.
On August 20 last month, the Brisbane city final took place between Na Fianna and Cuchulainn. Na Fianna came into the game as favourites having put together an unbeaten run this season, with Paul Phelan (Mountrath) and Rory Conroy (Clonaslee St Manman’s) in their midst. For Cuchulainn, they had to adopt the tag of underdogs, with Michael Fogarty (Portlaoise) and Joe Phelan (Camross) lining out for them.
The game was played out on a sunny, 25 degree day, with Na Fianna quickly backing up their pre-game favourites tag with early goals from Kilkenny man Brendan Coady.
Those scores helped Na Fianna into a 2-9 to 0-6 lead at half time. Despite a spirited start to the second half, Cuchulainn’s best efforts just weren’t enough on the day as Na Fianna had the game practically wrapped up with 20 minutes to go. The final scoreline saw them win comfortably in the end on a 3-17 to 0-12 scoreline.
All four players will see their seasons extended, however, as they go on to represent Brisbane in an Australia-wide tournament against teams from Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Auckland later in the year.