It's hard to believe that most, if not all, of the team which won this All-Ireland title back in 1996 are now in their 40s.
The memories of the game will remain vivid for many Laois people, but the significance of the win was probably greatest, and this team would ultimately provide the foundations for the seniors success in 2003.
This team provided huge entertainment from the moment they took to the field in 1996, and they managed to achieve the breakthrough so cruelly denied to the 1995 team, after they were taken to two replays by Westmeath in the Leinster final.
Gabriel Lawlor's charges got off to a great start against Kerry with Noel Garvan's speculative shot from long range into the Hill 16 end deceiving the goalkeeper and ending up in the net.
What proved to be the winning score arrived in the second half, with Brian 'Beano' McDonald coming up with a goal to etch his name into history. Laois won 2-11 to 1-11, and an unprecedented run of success had begun.
While digging through the Leinster Express archives, we stumbled across the player profiles published in the 1996 Yearbook - and they make for great reading.
Robert Darby (Stradbally):
Age 18. A strong goalkeeper with a good kickout, Robert has established himself as the no.1 choice to guard the Laois net and will have to be at his sharpest next Sunday. Had a successful year with his school who became South Leinster Champions and progressed through to the Leinster Final. - Robert is a student at Patrician College Ballyfin. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner '96.
Niall Collins (Portlaoise):
Age 18. Niall is a talented defender who loves to attack on the overlap. One of the more experienced players, he certainly knows what is expected of him at Croke Park. This man has won u/14, u/15, u/16, u/17 and All-Ireland Feile Finals. A student in Patrician College, Ballyfin, Niall led them to a Leinster Junior Football Final last year. He also played an influential role this year for his school in reaching the Colleges Leinster ‘B’ Final. Niall was also part of the Portlaoise outfit who currently hold the minor title. Another involved in coaching with the Leinster Council G.A.A Summer Camps. Leinster MFC winner and All-Ireland ’96.
Padraig Langton (Park/Ratheniska):
Age 18. A member of last year's county minor panel, Padraig has secured his place at right corner back on this year's team. He holds medals for u/14 and u/15 football, u/16 football and hurling, u/17 football and hurling, minor football and intermediate hurling. Padraig has gained experience at senior level with his club Park/Ratheniska. He also holds a Leinster Junior Football medal won with Portlaoise C.B.S. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Derek Conroy (The Rock):
Age 18. Lining out for his third year at this level, Derek is the most experienced player on the team. In 1994, Derek was hailed as the most outstanding minor in the county, impressive considering he was only 16 years old. The same year he captained Portlaoise C.B.S to the Leinster junior football title and has won county medals at u/12, u/14 and minor level. Derek also has had success with the Patrician College Ballyfin, where he is now a student, and was part of the outfit that captured the South Leinster title. Leinster MFC winner and All-Ireland ’96.
Martin Buggy (The Rock):
Age 16. Playing at full-back, Martin has made quite an impact on this years championship. This man holds medals at u/12 (twice), u/14, u/16 and u/18 level as well as two South Leinster medals with Ballyfin. Martin also features in the make-up of the Intermediate team for his club The Rock. Encouraging is the fact that Buggy will be eligible for selection for future minor panels. A student at Patrician College, Ballyfin. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
David O'Hara (The Heath):
Age 18. Last year's Captain, David is a competent defender and has won u/14, u/16, u/17 and minor football medals with The Heath. He also holds a Leinster Junior Football Medal won with Portlaoise C.B.S where he is a student. David also has experience playing with The Heath senior team. One of four minors coaching at Laois County Board and Leinster Council G.A.A Summer Camps. Leinster MFC winner and All-Ireland ’96.
Noel Garvan (St. Josephs):
Age 17. Excelling at midfield, Noel Garvan has featured consistently in this championship - giving an outstanding display of high fielding against Wexford and in the two Leinster finals. This man has won many titles in both hurling and football: u/12 hurling, u/14 football (twice) and hurling, u/16 football (twice) and hurling, u/17 and minor football. In addition he holds two Colleges' South Leinster medals. He made his debut on the senior scene this year with his club St. Joseph's. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Colm Parkinson (Portlaoise):
Age 18. A member of last years outfit, Colm lends experience to the half back line and was impressive in the opening game against Wexford. The joker of the team and the tension breaker in the dressing room, Colm is cool headed on the pitch. Playing his club football with Portlaoise, he has won u/14, u/15, u/16 and All-Ireland Feile football titles. He also holds a Leinster Junior Football medal won with Portlaoise C.B.S where he is a student. This year Colm played a big part in his club's title successes at u/17 and minor level. Leinster MFC winner and All-Ireland ’96.
Stephen Kelly (St.Josephs):
Age 17. Stephen is the second of the two St Josephs men on the team. While it is the first year for Stephen Kelly on this panel, he has experienced high profile games since he broke onto his club's senior team and played in last years county final. Playing at left-half forward, Stephen has secured the no.12 jersey. He has won medals at u/14 (twice) and u/16 level in the A Schools' Leinster Championships. A student at Salesian College, Ballinakill. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96
Owen Delaney (Portlaoise):
Age 17. Another survivor from last years team, Owen is an exceptional right-half forward who it seems has inherited many of his father Brian's attacking skills. He has the ability to turn a game around and is invaluable to the team. Owen has been successful at u/14 (twice), u/15, u/16, u/17 and All Ireland Feile football finals. Titles for his club Portlaoise this year include successes at u/17 and minor level. Owen also holds a Leinster Junior Football medal with Portlaoise C.B.S where he attends. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Martin Delaney (Portlaoise):
Age 18. Martin is this year's Captain. He is a former underage footballer with Meath who now plays his club football with Portlaoise. A tough footballer with immense talent, Martin was hampered by injury last year and was a loss in vital games. He has won u/15, u/16, u/17 and minor football titles with his club Portlaoise. He has the unusual distinction of winning two Leinster titles with two different schools, u/14 with St. Patrick's, Navan and junior football with Portlaoise C.B.S where he is a student. He is another involved with coaching in the Laois County Board and Leinster Council G.A.A Summer Camps. Leinster MFC winner and All-Ireland ’96.
Chris Conway (Arles):
Age 18. Chris, like teammate Derek Conroy, is part of the team for his third consecutive year and has therefore gained much experience at this level. Chris is a remarkable free-taker. He has won three u/12 football medals, an u/16 title and the Leinster Senior Football league with Knockbeg College, where he was senior footballer of the year last year. He also won the Junior B Championship last year with his club Arles. Chris holds the unusual distinction of playing part in two Leinster finals this year - with the Laois junior footballers as well as this Laois minor team. A big game is expected of Chris next Sunday. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Kevin Fitzpatrick (Portlaoise):
Age 18. While Kevin may be a newcomer to the Laois attack, he is certainly not lacking in experience. A strong force in this years minor team with title holders Portlaoise, Kevin also holds medals for u/14 (twice), u/15, u/16 (twice), u/17 (twice) level as well as Feile All-Ireland title. Holds a Leinster Schools Championship medal with Portlaoise C.B.S. A member of the Portlaoise senior football panel, he has huge scoring potential when given adequate ball-supply. A talented sportsman, Kevin is also a keen hurler and soccer player. Student at Portlaoise C.B.S. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Danny Doogue (Graiguecullen):
Age 18. After breaking onto the team in the latter games of last years championship, Doogue has demonstrated his tremendous talent and has become the automatic choice for the no.14 shirt. In the championship's opener against Wexford, Doogue proved his worth by clocking up an individual score of 2-4. An exceptional display by Danny saw him bury two well-taken goals within three minutes and later earn a penalty for his side. A pacey player who excels at running at defenders when in possession. His goalscoring ability and point-taking from either foot are both huge benefits to Laois' scoring potential. Danny has won an u/14 football title with his club Graiguecullen and has also established himself on the Graiguecullen senior team. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Brian McDonald (St. Michaels):
Age 16. Since his early days as a juvenile, Brian has been earmarked as county potential and is certainly living up to that claim. Another newcomer to the Laois attack, playing at right-corner forward, he is joined by Danny Doogue and Kevin Fitzpatrick. Brian is the youngest member on the team at sixteen years of age. He holds u/12 (five) and u/16 B championship medals. For Knockbeg College, he holds both South Leinster and Leinster titles at both u/14 and u/16 level. A player for the future, Brian will be eligible for selection for this panel again next year. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Ken Dunne (Graiguecullen):
Age 18. The second Graigucullen man on the panel, Ken is sub-goalkeeper. He holds an u/14 B medal as well as the Leinster Senior Championship B title for 1993. He also won the 1992 minor A title for his club Graiguecullen. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Tom Lynch (St.Lazerians, Abbeyleix):
Age 17. Tom, coming from a traditional hurling area, is the first Abbeyleix man to make it to this panel in quite some time. He has won an u/16 B football title in addition to Colleges' Leinster Championships 'C' titles for his college at both u/14 and u/16 levels. A student at Salesian College, Ballinakill. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
J.P Keogh (O'Dempseys):
Age 16. One of the younger members of the squad, J.P will be up for selection to this panel again next year. U/16 Finalists for his club, he also features in the O'Dempsey's senior side. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Diarmuid Mullins (Portlaoise):
Age 17. Diarmuid is renowned equally for his talents on the hurling pitch as for football, having the unique distinction of representing his county at minor level in both codes. His honours include u/12 Hurling, u/14 Football (twice), u/16 Football (twice) and hurling and successes this year at u/17 and minor level as well as All-Ireland Feile Football titles. He also holds medals at u/16 and senior level as well as South Leinster Medals with Ballyfin College where he is a student. Diarmuid is presently coaching in the Leinster Council G.A.A Summer Camps. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Tommy Mulligan (Portlaoise):
Age 16. A keen footballer and hurler, Tommy has won medals for u/12 Hurling, u/14 Football (twice) and hurling, u/16 Football (twice) and hurling, u/17 and minor football. He also holds two South Leinster Football Colleges medals for Ballyfin College, where he is a student. Only sixteen years old, Tommy has plenty of time to make an impact on the championship in the future. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Eddie Kinsella (Stradbally):
Age 18. Along with a few others from the squad, Eddie was involved in the Colleges Leinster Final with his school, Patrician College Ballyfin and so holds a Colleges South Leinster medal. He is also a member of the Stradbally senior team. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.
Shane Hennessy (The Heath):
Age 17. Shane currently holds medals for South Leinster titles at u/16 and senior level for Patrician College, Ballyfin. He has also played his part in the county's successes at u/17 and minor level. Leinster MFC and All-Ireland winner ’96.