SPORTS REVIEW OF 2016

APRIL - Laois footballers relegated as hurlers manage to survive

Rory Delaney

Reporter:

Rory Delaney

Email:

rory@leinsterexpress.ie

APRIL - Laois footballers relegated as hurlers manage to survive

Portarlington U-18 rugby player Conor Houlihan celebrates with minis players Ross Houlihan and Daragh Jewell after they beat Clane in the Leinster final at Donnybrook.

The worst fears of Laois football supporters were realised in April, as they were relegated to Division 3.
Needing to win their final league game against Meath, Laois jumped into a seven point lead against the Royals in O'Moore Park, but eventually lost by six, 0-18 to 1-9. It meant Laois would play their league football in the third tier for the first time since the 1980s.
A training camp after the league proved somewhat disastrous, and ended with Anthony Cunningham being appointed a coach later in the month, with Leo Tiernan brought back in as Strength and Conditioning Coach.
The hurlers managed to survive in Division 1B, but only just. They lost to Kerry in Tralee in their first playoff game, 2-27 to 1-19, with Willie Hyland, Ross King and Willie Dunphy all sent off.
That left Laois in the last-chance saloon against Westmeath, but a brilliant performance from Cha Dwyer, who scored 0-6, helped them to a 0-23 to 0-16 win. Their subsequent plans for the championship were dealt a blow, however, when Zane Keenan withdrew from the panel due to time contraints.
The Leinster minor championships got underway in April, with the footballers losing narrowly to Meath in the opener, 1-6 to 0-11, but bouncing back with a 1-13 to 1-4 win over Carlow. The minor hurlers season began and ended in April, as they lost to Offaly, beat Carlow but then lost to Dublin.
The local Féile finals were also held in April, with Abbeyleix and Camross crowned hurling champions, and Ballyroan Abbey and Spink taking football honours.
Michael O'Reilly's bid for OIympic Qualification was dealt a blow with a surprise loss to a Finnish boxer at an event in Turkey, while Laois' AFL export Zach Tuohy achieved what few Irishman have when he played his 100th AFL game for Carlton.
Niamh Dunne won the Leinster and All-Ireland 40X20 singles titles, and also won the doubles title with Ciara Dowling. Portlaoise Panthers ladies team won their seventh Midlands League title in a row, while the rugby season also drew to a close.
Portarlington juveniles had a double success, as their U-18 and U-15 teams won Leinster league titles, but it was disappointment for the Portlaoise U-18 girls as they lost to Tullamore.
The basketball season also came to a close with both Portlaoise Panthers and Portarlington Kestrels claiming Midlands League titles, while Scoil Chríost Rí won the All-Ireland U-14 title.
Finally, in athletics, Colin Maher was on the podium once more, winning the Senior Mens Road Race title, while Sharon Grant was first in the Senior Ladies race. The Laois Indoor Track and Field championships also took place in Nenagh.

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QUOTES OF THE MONTH

“Yeah it was a tough campaign. It was a campaign where we had a lot of good games, without getting good results."

- Mick Lillis after Laois lose 0-18 to 1-9 against Meath to confirm their relegation to NFL Division 3. It is the first time in 30 years Laois will compete in the third tier of the national league.

“We're terribly disappointed, I'm terribly disappointed for the lads. The last two weeks we worked really well, we had done really well in training and had good spirit in the team and a good performance the last day against Wexford. I know it was difficult to come down here, but I'm just disappointed.”

- A shell-shocked Cheddar Plunkett after Laois were beaten in Tralee by Kerry, which consigned them to a promotion/relegation playoff against Westmeath.

“It was a hugely important game to us because we have given so much over the last few years, and I'm talking about the players here. They have given so much to the team and to go back to Division 2, it would have been a blow to us. There is toughness in this team, and we would have gathered ourselves and face that as well, but it is a great boost to us.”

- Cheddar Plunkett is a relieved man after Laois beat Westmeath by seven point to retain their place in Division 1B.

"It was a brilliant gala with loads of PBs and 29 medals. The mixed relay team did a fantastic job of winning the gold in completing the day’s events."

- Irina Dawson, coach with Laois Marlins Swim Club, after the club's performance at the Kilkenny Spring Gala.