DCSIMG

MOMENT IN TIME - Heroes of '96 still going strong

Back in 1996, in Babs Keating's first year in charge, Laois stunned many by making it through to the semi-finals of Division One of the National Hurling League.

The semi-final ultimately ended in disappointment, as Tipperary claimed a two point victory which had looked like it was going to be a lot more as the Premier county lead by seven points with 20 minutes to go.

John Leahy was Laois' tormentor in chief on the day, hitting 1-4 as he dragged Niall Rigney all over the field. The build up to the game was dominated by the fact that Babs was taking on hs home county, but he had been building up to the game ever since Laois dispatched Kilkenny in the quarter final, when two PJ Cuddy goals helped Laois to a 2-10 to 0-11 win.

When asked after that game if Laois could improve for Tipperary, Keating responded "Was that a good as Laois would get? I would like to think that we could be better. We have our hurling work still to do yet." Any good Tipperary man worth his salt couldn't avoid getting a dig such as that in at Kilkenny, but no quips could avoid the fact that Laois were second best to Tipperary for most of the game in the semi-final.

A late burst saw Laois shave five points off their seven point deficit, but Tipperary had inflicted enough damage at that stage to allow them scrape through to the final. Of the team that took to the field that day, nine are still playing at some level with their clubs or adopted clubs, while it also yielded a future Laois senior manager in Niall Rigney, while Joe Dollard, Ricky Cashin, John O'Sullivan have all acted as selectors at various times, while Noel Delaney now works with the Leinster Council as a hurling development officer.

Ricky Cashin - Cashin remained actively involved with Laois teams up to last year, acting as a selector to the senior team during Damian Fox's first year in charge. He was also manager of the U-21 side for three years up to last year, and in that period came agonisingly close to making a number of big scalps in the competition.

Niall Rigney - Another player who has stayed involved, he was a selector under Damian Fox also, and assumed the position of manager when Fox resigned in 2008. He is currently in his first full year as county manager, having previously managed Portlaoise to a county final in 2007.

Toms Kenna - He is still hurling senior with The Harps', and featured in their game with Castletown in the 2008 championship. Didn't play as much last year as he had in previous years, but his experience remains invaluable to a young side.

Joe Dollard - Yet another player to get involved with the senior setup after his playing days, as he is currently acting as a selector to the senior team with Niall Rigney. He has remained playing for Camross ever since, and even scored 1-4 in the JHC A final last year against Timahoe.

John O'Sullivan - Like many of his team mates in 1996, he has shown a strong interest moving into the management side of things. He was a selector with the Laois senior team for a spell during Damian Fox's reign, and he has since moved into management himself, as he will take over the Castletown senior team for the coming year.

Declan Conroy - Midfield on the day, time has gone by but Conroy's position hasn't changed a whole lot, and he's still hurling senior with Tinnahinch and Intermediate with Rosenallis at midfield, despite knee problems. Again, no signs of retirement as of yet, and he remains a hugely important player for his club.

David Cuddy - Cuddy was one of the few Laois forwards to enhance his reputation on the day, as he was the only one of the starting six which managed to score. He is still hurling senior with Castletown, and was full forward and top scorer in the championship for them last year

Bill Meagher - One of the best full backs in the country at the time, Meagher went on to represent Laois with distinction on many Leinster teams at the time. He has since moved to Bray, where he works as a secondary school teacher, and is still hurling with Bray Emmetts.

Noel Delaney - While life didn't begin at 40 for Noel Delaney, it certainly didn't change too much, as he is still lining out for The Harps senior team at full back. Like many of the other players, he remained heavily involved in hurling and coaching, and currently works as a hurling development officer in Offaly and Westmeath for the Leinster Council.

John Taylor - Voted on to the Laois team of the millenium, Taylor is another player to get involved in management. He has taken up the reins at Mountrath, and more recently was manager of the Colt team which claimed the Laois IHC title last year. He has since stepped down from that position due to time constraints, but has built a strong reputation for himself as a coach around the county.

PJ Cuddy - Also voted on to the Laois Team of the Millenium, the best full forward of his generation was coming towards the end of his career in the 1996 season. While he retired from playing soon after, he is still living in Camross, and has managed Intermediate and U-21 teams in the club in recent years.

Owen Coss - Another member of the team that is still regularly playing, Coss featured throughout the league for the Kilcotton senior side last year, while also playing with the juniors. Still living locally, where he works as a carpenter, he has so far shown no signs of hanging up his hurl.

Cyril Duggan - A primary school teacher in Emo NS, Duggan is also involved in coaching, and has been working alongside Pat Critchley within Portlaoise GAA club to improve the youth structures in the club. His influence has also been seen within his school too, as Emo claimed a rare Cumman na mBunscol camogie title last year.

Fionnain O'Sullivan - The third Castletown player to make it into the starting 15 on the day, he is also still playing senior, and was introduced as a sub during Castletown's run to the quarter finals of last years' championship.

Seamus Cuddy - Camross man Cuddy was living in Waterford at the time of the game, and he is still living in the south east. His local club down there are The Nire, which is a strong football club in the county.

 
 
 

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