Within minutes of last Wednesday night’s victory over Carlow, manager Tony Doran was hailing the defiant defending of his side as one of the key reasons Laois qualified for their first Leinster U-21 hurling final since 1990.
A goalmouth scramble midway through the second half saw Laois throw bodies on the line to prevent Carlow scoring what would have been a crucial goal, and it was fresh in Doran’s mind after the game. “I suppose one thing that still sticks out in my mind from the game is that they should have scored a goal. Eoin (Fleming) made two saves, Gearoid (Burke) made a save, Johnny (Finane) made a save, they just wanted it.
“They wanted the Leinster final and that was it, it should have been in the back of the net but the three of them threw their bodies to it, we made the saves, gathered up the ball and came down and got a score, they just wanted it. We knew coming in it was going to be an absolute dog fight, Dublin were a city team, we were coming down here today to a country team, it was going to be a dogfight and that’s what it ended up being, and we’re glad to come out on top.”
While the victory was the main thing achieved from the game, it was still worrying to some extent how much Laois struggled against Carlow. After hitting the heights with the win over Dublin, Laois never came close to replicating that form here, and Doran felt it was always going to be difficult to replicate that performance. “After coming down from the Dublin win, to try and level it out and build it back up, it just proved a little bit difficult.
“Maybe the fact that it was a semi-final, none of them have experienced these positions before. They knew what was at stake, they were probably a little bit on edge throughout the game, so jitters or nerves, whatever you want to call it. Semi-finals, they are hard won, they are often harder won than a final, but we won it by a point and that’s it. Like I said to the boys inside, one (point) will do it, so long as we’re on the right side of it.
“It doesn’t have to be a twenty-pointer or anything else, a one-pointer will do us, and we’re in the final and that’s it now, we can work away now for the next three weeks and get things rectified. The one thing they can do now is they can actually enjoy themselves, they are in the Leinster final. Coming here today, if we hadn’t have won it would have been ‘oh, usual Laois team, beat Dublin and flopped to Carlow’, but we won and that’s it.”
The way Carlow cut Laois opened at times was perhaps the most worrying thing about the game, but Doran admitted he was due to welcome back more members to the panel to stiffen up competition for places. “We were opened up a few times in the back line, they ran at us and cut us open but we have a bit of bolstering up coming into the panel in the next week or so, a couple of guys are coming back into us that haven’t been there so far, so that will jig things around a little bit again and we’ll just try to straighten things out for Kilkenny.”