Laois minor hurlers produced the proverbial ‘game of two halves’ performance in Wexford Park on Saturday afternoon to lose out by two points.
For the opening 30 minutes, Pat Critchley’s charges turned in as good a half of hurling as you could hope to see from a Laois team. They scored 0-16 , with 0-12 of that coming from play as they dominated the home side.
For that opening period they enjoyed a strong wind advantage and they gave a masterclass in how to use the elements to your advantage, bombing over points from distance.
They were dominant in the air as well, winning a huge amount of clean possession from puckouts, and but for two brief moments, were flawless.
Those two lapses which would ultimately come back to haunt them were the concession of two goals to Wexford, both of which were entirely avoidable.
The general consensus among both sets of supporters after the game was that Laois didn’t deserve to lose the game, but they at least have the chance to put things right. The second half performance, playing into the wind which yielded just one point for Laois, will no doubt have left the team keen to put things right.
They can do that in two weeks time against Meath, and the team should be confident they can still make a big impression on this Leinster championship.
They certainly showed that in the first half, as they raced into an early lead. The impressive Stephen Phelan got the scoring under way in the third minute, and Liam O’Connell added another from distance within a minute.
Those scores set the team up, and Lee Cleere caught a Wexford puck out soon after and sent it soaring back between the posts. Stephen Phelan notched his second before Wexford finally opened their account, with a point from Mikey Dwyer.Liam O’Connell hit back for Laois with a point from a free on his own 45 yard line, and Aaron Dunphy quickly added another.
Ciaran O’Connor pointed a free from a rare Wexford shot on goal, but Laois powered on thanks to two brilliant points from Stephen Dunphy and a sideline cut from all of 55 yards by Mark Kavanagh.
Wexford struck for their first goal after that, when Ian Carty’s ball in held up in the wind and Stephen O’Gorman caught it in the penalty area and fired to the net.
Laois were undeterred by that setback and bounced back really well, rattling off five points in a row, the pick of them a wonderful catch and shot on the right wing by Stephen Phelan.
Much of that good work was undone, however, when Liam O’Connell failed to control the ball in the penalty area and O’Connor again pounced for their second goal.
Both teams managed two more points apiece before half time and that left Laois leading by 0-16 to 2-4 at the break.
Playing into the strong wind in the second half it was always going to be difficult for Laois, but it probably turned out to be more difficult than they thought it would be.
Wexford didn’t really come roaring back at them, instead they slowly chipped away the lead. Seamus Casey got their first point of the half and Ciaran O’Connor added a couple of frees to halve the deficit.
Three more points from the home side saw them draw level with 15 minutes to go, but Laois re-took the lead thanks to asuperb score from Mark Kavanagh out on the right wing.
That was the last score Laois got, however, and three more points for Wexford before the end saw them sneak home with the win.