Two goals in the opening ten minutes of the second-half proved pivotal as St Lazarian’s Abbeyleix upset the form book to make their way into the winners section of the Senior Hurling Championship.
Laois Shopping Centre Senior Hurling Championship Rd 1
Castletown/Slieve Bloom 1-11
Abbeyleix had struggled in Division 1A and on that form they should have been over-matched against a Castletown Slieve Bloom side who narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot in Division 1. However Abbeyleix were much the better side on Sunday putting in an impressive display that was both hard working and tactically astute.
Ryan Peacock read the game expertly playing in a deep midfield role effectively alongside Declan Phelan while the full-back line got the better of a potentially very dangerous Castletown Slieve Bloom full-forward line. At the other end Eoin Reilly was a constant threat in attack while Eoghan Fennelly took advantage of the majority of opportunities that came his way from placed balls.
For their part, Castletown Slieve Bloom never really came to life. They led by a point at the break but in the second-half they only added four more and looked short on ideas when they needed the scores to get back into the game. Their full-forward line was playing too far out the field trying meaning that when the ball was played in, the Abbeyleix full-back line had the simplest of tasks to clear their lines.
Abbeyleix were quickly out of the blocks with a brace of frees from Fennelly, one a simple opportunity from where the ball landed after a late tackle on Thomas Doyle deep in the Abbeyleix half.
Castletown Slieve Bloom looked to have seen off the early run of scores as they jumped into a four point lead. A point from Paul Cuddy was followed by a fine solo goal from Ben Conroy. Further points from Brendan Reddin and Conroy extended the lead and it looked as if they were going to pull clear.
However Abbeyleix were far from rattled and after a point from a free from Fennelly, Eoin Reilly launched over two superb points to reduce the gap to one. Castletown Slieve Bloom were still creating openings at this stage and Brendan Reddin should have goaled with just Enda Rowland to beat but his powerful shot went just over the bar. Ryan Mullaney added another point and once again Castletown Slieve Bloom seemed to be in the ascendency with a three point lead.
For the remainder of the half, it was Abbeyleix who played the better hurling outscoring their opponents by four points to two to leave them one behind at the break.
They were out very early for the second-half but whatever brief message was imparted at the interval had the desired effect as they went from a point behind to four points in front after ten minutes. Castletown Slieve Bloom added points from James Hooban and two Ben Conroy frees but at the other end goals from Dayne Peacock and a scrambled effort from Rory McEvoy followed by a superb point from Steven Reilly turned the game on its head.
They continued to pull away with another brace of points from Eoin Reilly, one an excellent score from wide on the right hand side after a 30 metre solo run.
Castletown Slieve Bloom managed just one point in the closing quarter of the game from a Ben Conroy free while Abbeyleix continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with scores from Rory McEvoy and Eoin Reilly.
They should have had a third goal but Eoghan Fennelly was denied by a sharp save from Patrick Mullaney when he looked sure to find the back of the net.
Despite Castletown Slieve Bloom’s dire situation, they never threatened a revival late in the game. Abbeyleix were well organised at the back and dealt with relative ease with anything that came their way. Any time a Castletown Slieve Bloom player threatened to break through, he was bottled up by the defence and invariably possession was turned over.
Scorers: Abbeyleix: Eoghan Fennelly 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘65); Eoin Reilly 0-5; Rory McEvoy 1-1; Dayne Peacock 1-0; Steven Reilly 0-1. Casteltown/Slieve Bloom: Ben Conroy 1-3 (0-3f); Ryan Mullaney 0-3 (0-2f); James Hooban 0-2; Brendan Reddin 0-2; Paul Cuddy 0-1
St Lazarian’s Abbeyleix: Enda Rowland; David Bonham, Oisin Carroll, Mark Cahill; PJ Corby, Declan Phelan, Thomas Doyle; Steven Reilly, Ryan Peacock; Eoin Reilly, Eoghan Fennelly, Dayne Peacock; Rory McEvoy, Joe Bergin, Conor Bergin. Subs: Eugene Hearns for Rory McEvoy (38mins); Rory McEvoy for Eugene Hearns (60mins)
Castletown Slieve Bloom: Patrick Mullaney; Evan Cuddy, Gearoid Gaughan, Enda Conroy; Tom Delaney, Declan Keenan, Conor Phelan; Finion Cuddy, Brian Ferns; Ryan Mullaney, Paul Cuddy, John Gaughan; Brendan Reddin, Ben Conroy, James Hooban. Subs: Kevin Conroy for Brian Ferns (29mins), Martin Phelan for John Gaughan (40mins), John Lowry for Conor Phelan (43mins), Gavin Conroy for Ryan Mullaney (56mins), Seamus Lyons for Declan Keenan (59mins)
Referee: John Lalor (Shanahoe)