The reigning Laois county champions got their defence off to the worst possible start, as they fell to six point defeat to near neighbours Castletown Gaels, who led comfortably for the majority of the affair.
Castletown Gaels 1-18
Camross opened their account for the evening though corner forward Mark Dowling, who came into the game in top form after his league final exploits, but he would be well marshalled by Castletown Gaels throughout this one.
Castletown Gaels had their first goal chance when Slieve Bloom player, and the only Gaels player in the starting fifteen, Ben Conroy, offloaded to Joe Phelan, but he hit straight at Tadgh Doran in goals.
Referee John Lalor pulled the play back for an earlier foul though, and Dylan Conroy pointed the free.
Castletown Gaels then took an early lead, and one they would not relinquish. Points from Martin Phelan, Dylan Conroy and Ben Conroy put them three ahead.
The sides traded points through Zane Keenan (frees) for Camross and Martin Phelan and Brendan Reddin for Castletown Gaels, before the Gaels outfit built on their lead once again. Ben Conroy and Dylan Conroy raised white flags as they lead 0-8 to 0-3 at the half-way stage in the first half.
Camross tried fighting back into it, with Zane Keenan landing two frees, but Ben Conroy was proving his worth down the other end, as he hit 1-1. His point came from some excellent ball control, as he fired over the black spot close to the stand.
His goal arrived not long after, as goalkeeper Tadgh Doran got caught in two minds as to whether or not to come out, and Conroy punished this uncertainty with a blistering finish.
Zane Keenan landed a sideline and a free before half-time to leave Camross trailing by 1-10 to 0-8.
Camross opened the scoring for the second half through Dean Delaney, but Castletown Gaels still looked the hungrier and better-drilled team. Dylan Conroy put over two placed balls, as the Camross defence looked shaky.
The men in black and amber didn’t give up, as Zane Keenan put over his second sideline cut and Dean Delaney also split the posts, but Castletown Gaels again restored their seven point lead, scoring the next two points.
James Hooban and Dylan Conroy (free) pointed, with Ben Conroy manufacturing an opportunity to finish the game in between all of that. He burst through and looked to be bearing down on goal, but corner back Joseph Phelan got back just in time to hook the sliotar off him.
Camross kept at it, and points from Zane Keenan, one from play and one from a placed ball, meant they were just five down with ten minutes plus stoppage time to play. However, they wouldn’t score until near the end when it was too late, as Castletown Gaels hit four unanswered points.
Dylan Conroy placed over two frees, sandwiched between one from substitute Aaron Gaughan, as he looked to stake a claim for a starting position. Conor Phelan rounded off the scoring for the Gaels outfit.
Zane Keenan hit a last minute goal for Camross from a free, but it wasn’t enough, as they fell to a defeat. They are now under pressure to get something from their next two group games to stay in the hunt.
Scorers: Dylan Conroy 0-8 (0-6 frees), Ben Conroy 1-3, Martin Phelan 0-2, Aaron Gaughan, Conor Phelan, Brendan Reddin, James Hooban and Ryan Mullaney (free) 0-1 each
Team: Patrick Mullaney; Martin Reddin, Eoin Peters, Evan Cuddy; John Gaughan, Ryan Mullaney, Shane Phelan; James Hooban, Shane Cuddy; Dylan Conroy, Ben Conroy, Conor Phelan; Joe Phelan, Martin Phelan, Brendan Reddin. Subs: Aaron Gaughan for M Phelan (47 mins), Gearoid Gaughan for J Phelan (62 mins)
Scorers: Zane Keenan 1-9 (1-6 frees, 0-2 sidelines), Dean Delaney 0-2, Mark Dowling 0-1.
Team: Tadgh Doran; Andrew Mortimer, Martin Burke, Joseph Phelan; Lorcan Burke, Andrew Collier, Malvin Moloney; Zane Keenan, Matthew Collier; Ciaran Collier, Niall Holmes (C), Eoin Gaughan; Mark Dowling, Darren Gilmartin, Dean Delaney. Subs: Oisin Bennett for Gilmartin (37 mins), Michael Phelan for Burke (47 mins), Odhran Phelan for C Collier (54 mins)
Referee: John Lalor (Shanahoe)
A lot of players came to the fore for Castletown Gaels, with Ben Conroy proving a handful to defend against up front. However, their defence was the catalyst for their win, with Eoin Peters and Ryan Mullaney both brilliant. We’ll give the nod to Peters this time.
What a start to the championship! This is another example of how unpredictable the Laois SHC can be.
Castletown Gaels were the better team throughout, but Ben Conroy’s goal gave them the confidence they needed to stay in front.
Not too many complaints for John Lalor from the crowd on the night.
Despite missing a number of players, questions as to whether Camross have the hunger to claim back their throne have to be asked after this performance. For Castletown Gaels, they won’t want to be getting too ahead of themselves, but they could be a team to watch for the championship.
Zane Keenan’s sidelines are beautiful, and the one he caught in the second half under the stand brought some life to the Camross faithful.