Rathdowney-Errill are the Laois SHC champions following a hard-fought five point victory over Borris-Kilcotton in the final at O'Moore Park today.
Rathdowney-Errill 0 - 17
Borris-Kilcotton 1 - 9
Laois Shopping Centre Senior Hurling Championship Final
*Our Senior hurling final coverage is in association with Clement Herron Real Estate
Billed with the expectation of something close to the classic they played out in the 2016 final, the game failed to ignite for the most part.
The opening half was a slow-burner of sorts. Both sides were slow to get going, and neither really showed their full-hand.
Borris-Kilcotton opened the scoring with seconds on the clock, Neil Foyle dissecting the posts to give Eoin Brislane's side an early lead. Borris-Kilcotton built on their lead with two monster frees from their talisman forward PJ Scully. His first sailed over from his own 45 metre line, and his second slightly closer from his own 65, to push them into a three point lead with just under ten minutes played.
Rathdowney-Errill were certainly the slower of the two to get going. A couple of wayward shots and wides meant they didn't open their account until the thirteenth minute of the game. Mark Kavanagh collected the ball on the stand sideline before beating two Borris-Kilcotton players and firing over direct from the hurl to set them away.
The same man narrowed the gap to the minimum shortly after with his first free of the day.
Seven minutes passed before the next score, Borris-Kilcotton ending their own near-15 minute drought, with a Joe Campion point. However, Rathdowney-Errill went on to hit the next three points in as many minutes through a Ross King brace and a single from Tadgh Dowling out near the terrace sideline.
The final point of a shaky first-half went to Borris-Kilcotton, Scully converting a free from his own 45m line to send his side in trailing by the minimum - 0-6 to 0-5.
Rathdowney-Errill hit their purple patch in the ten minutes after the restart - Kavanagh hitting three frees alongside a two super points from Ross King saw them go six points ahead with Borris-Kilcotton yet to score in the second half.
Borris-Kilcotton found their stride not long after with the next 1-2 going their way. Scully hit a free and then they struck for goal. Joe Campion offloaded to Aaron Dunphy and he duly rattled the Rathdowney-Errill net. Neil Foyle followed with a fine point to see the gap closed to the minimum with a quarter of an hour to go.
Rathdowney-Errill finished with a flourish to reclaim the O'Keefe Cup. Kavanagh added a further five points, three frees and two '65s, and Paddy McCane a point while Borris-Kilcotton managed just two more through Scully and Danny Fitzpatrick.
The final whistle sounded to huge roar from the Rathdowney-Errill support as they claimed their sixth title since the turn of the millennium.
*See Tuesday's Leinster Express for full coverage
Scorers: Mark Kavanagh 0-11 (0-9 frees, 0-2 ’65s), Ross King 0-4, Tadgh Dowling and Paddy McCane 0-1 each.
Team: Damian Madden; Jimmy Corrigan, Brian Campion, John Purcell; Joe Fitzpatrick, Jack Kelly, Eric Killeen; Paddy Purcell, John Keane; Tadgh Dowling, Shane Dollard, James Ryan; Paddy McCane, Ross King, Mark Kavanagh. Subs: Brandon McGinley for T Dowling (37 mins), Eoin Bourke for Dollard (BS, 53-55 mins).
Scorers: PJ Scully 0-5 (0-4 frees), Aaron Dunphy 1-0, Neil Foyle 0-2, Joe Campion and Danny Fitzpatrick 0-1 each.
Team: Eoin Fleming, Danny Fitzpatrick, Stephen Phelan, Stephen Finan; Jim Fitzpatrick, Matthew Whelan, Paddy Whelan; Conor Kilbane, Colm Stapleton; Daire Quinlan, Neil Foyle, Aaron Dunphy; Stephen Dunphy, Joe Campion, PJ Scully. Subs: Emmett Jones for S Dunphy (37 mins), Dean Carey for Quinlan (60 mins).
REFEREE: Alan Doheny (Castletown)