Laois senior hurlers turned in another hugely encouraging performance in their second NHL Division 1B game of the year last Saturday night, as they lost out to Cork by seven points.
Hurling Allianz NHL Division 1B
While the scoreline would suggest there is little to be happy about after this game, it fails to tell the full story. Despite the seven point margin, Laois will look back and feel they could have gotten something from the game.
Eoin Reilly had a penalty saved in the first half, while John Purcell and Ross King also saw good goal chances go to waste. By contrast, Cork failed to create a single goal scoring opportunity in the entire game, a huge turnaround from their last visit to O’Moore Park when they scored 10-20.
Even when they tried to fashion a shot at goal in injury time, Eoin Reilly came charging off his line to block a shot 20 yards from goal, before chasing the next would-be attacker out towards the sideline. You got the sense that the hurt from the game in 2011 was exorcised in that defiant late stand.
Outside of that, there was much to be happy about from a Laois point of view. The work rate was, once again, incredible, as every player gave their all for whatever amount of time they were on the field.
The defence were disciplined, restricting Cork to shooting from distance for the most part, while the forwards showed signs of improvement, although scoring was obviously a problem too. There are signs that things are getting better, however, and Tommy Fitzgerald and Neil Foyle are both in good form at the moment.
The game was dominated by a strong wind which was blowing down towards the town end of O’Moore Park, and it was Cork who had it at their backs in the first half.
Within nine seconds of the throw in, the Rebels had taken the lead through centre-back Christopher Joyce, as the early signs looked ominous. A minute later, Patrick Horgan floated over a free from 60 yards out, and not long after that, Alan Cadogan also split the posts as Cork lead by three points after three minutes.
No doubt there were some Laois supporters in the stands fearing the worst, but the players never panicked. Neil Foyle won a free after four minutes, and Stephen Maher tapped it over to secure Laois’ first point of the game.
Maher then missed another shot from a free as the wind made things tricky, and Laois were made to pay for that wide. Patrick Horgan pointed another free, Cadogan scored his second from way out on the right wing and Seamus Harnedy also opened his account to see Cork go 0-6 to 0-1 ahead.
Laois responded through a Stephen Maher free as he fired over after Cha Dwyer was fouled 30 yards out. Cork were scoring points in batches of three, however, and they rattled off three more without reply to go seven clear.
The first was another Horgan free, and Harnedy added his second before wing-back William Egan scored from distance to put the visitors in control.
Laois were doing a lot of good work without much reward, but they were thrown a lifeline in the 28th minute when Tommy Fitzgerald was fouled for a penalty. Eoin Reilly came all the way up to take it, but his powerful shot was beaten away.
Patrick Horgan hit two more frees before half time, either side of StephenMaher’s third free, as Cork headed to the dressing rooms with a handsome eight point lead, 0-11 to 0-3.
Laois came out strong at the start of the second half, with Maher pointing another free after just three minutes. Tommy Fitzgerald was then dragged down as he ran through on goal to allow Maher slot over another, and Cork took 14 minutes to score their first of the half, as sub Stephen Moylan pointed.
From the resulting puckout, Eoin Reilly launched one of his trademark booming puckouts, which almost reaped huge reward for Laois. The Cork full-back line weren’t expecting it, and Ross King stole in behind them.
The ball bounced up kindly for him, but his first-time shot flashed just wide as another good goalscoring chance went astray. Laois kept plugging away, however, and Tommy Fitzgerald scored a lovely point midway through the half to leave six in it, but Laois wouldn’t get any closer than that.
Try as they might, they just couldn’t reel Cork in, and despite some excellent defending to frustrate them at one end, they just couldn’t punish them at the other, as Cork ran out seven point winners.
SCORERS – Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-6 (0-5 free), Alan Cadogan 0-3, Seamus Harnedy 0-2, Christopher Joyce, William Egan, Stephen Moylan 0-1 each; Laois: Stephen Maher 0-6 (all frees), Tommy Fitzgerald 0-1.
CORK: Darren McCarthy; Shane O’Neill, Stephen McDonnell, Colm Spillane; Lorcan McLoughlin, Christopher Joyce, William Egan; Mark Ellis, Paul Haughney; Seamus Harnedy, Jamie Coughlan, Michael O’Sullivan; Alan Cadogan, Patrick Cronin, Patrick Horgan. Subs: Daniel Kearney for O’Sullivan (half-time), Stephen Moylan for Cronin (half-time), Rob O’Shea for Harnedy (51 mins), Cian McCarthy for Haughney (56 mins)
LAOIS: Eoin Reilly; John A Delaney, Brian Campion, Brian Stapleton; Joe Fitzpatrick, Matthew Whelan, Conor Dunne; Patrick Whelan, Ciaran Collier; Cha Dwyer, John Purcell, Stephen Maher; Tommy Fitzgerald, Dwane Palmer, Neil Foyle. Subs: Ross King for Foyle (blood 21-26 mins), Willie Hyland for Purcell (34 mins), Ross King for Foyle (half time), Joe Campion for Dwyer (43 mins), Willie Dunphy for Phelan (51 mins), PJ Scully for Dunphy (68 mins - injured)
Referee: Christopher Browne (Galway)