Ben Conroy on the attack for Laois against Galway in Rathdowney. Pic: Alf Harvey
Laois saw their Walsh Cup campaign come to an end on Sunday afternoon, but they wrapped it up with a battling display against Galway in Rathdowney.
Missing a raft of what would be deemed 'starting' players, plenty of those trying to get their names on that list showed what they have to offer.
They turned in a really gutsy display, and manager Eamonn Kelly was understandably pleased with that aspect of the game afterwards. The Walsh Cup is all about experimentation and giving new players a chance, and some have certainly taken the opportunity afforded to them.
Eoin Fleming was outstanding between the posts, and Enda Rowland faces a battle to start the opening game in the league against Kerry. Leigh Bergin has been similarly impressive since being moved to full-back, and seems certain to start against the Kingdom in that position.
Paddy Purcell had a tough time of it on Joseph Cooney, but has done well at centre-back, while the decision to move Ben Conroy to midfield has also borne fruit so far. He hit six points here and got on plenty of ball, and will be worth another run out in that position.
Newcomers Sean Downey, Eanna Lyons, Aaron Dunphy and Aidan Corby have also shown promise, so Laois can head into a hugely important league campaign with some confidence. The likes of Cha Dwyer, Picky Maher and PJ Scully have yet to return, while Cahir Healy only made his first appearance of the season here, so there is plenty of room for improvement.
Early on here it looked like they might struggle against the Tribesmen, as they raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes. Laois were struggling to break through the Galway defence, but once they settled they forced their own scores.
Two Neil Foyle frees and a Ben Conroy effort had them right back in the game at 0-5 to 0-3, and they were still two behind when Galway struck for the only goal of the game.
Joseph Cooney won possession 40 yards out before racing clear to shoot low past Eoin Fleming. That could have seen Laois wilt, but they battled back well, and Foyle (2) and Aidan Corby both hti the target to see Laois trail by just four at the break, 1-9 to 0-8.
Ross King was introduced at half time, and he wasted little time in making an impact as he pointed inside of a minute. Ben Conroy added a 65 and Laois were now within two.
They hung onto Galway's coattails for the rest of the half, helped by some superb goalkeeping by Eoin Fleming, which included a penalty save from Jason Flynn.
With normal time elapsed, just the goal separated the teams, 1-16 to 0-16, but Galway hit three late points to see the scoreboard flatter them a little when the final whistle sounded.
Scorers: Ben Conroy (0-4 frees, 0-1 65), Neil Foyle (0-5 frees) 0-6 each, Ryan Mullaney, Willie Dunphy, Aidan Corby, Ross King 0-1 each.
Team: Eoin Fleming; Cahir Healy, Leigh Bergin, Podge Lawlor; Matthew Whelan, Paddy Purcell, Ryan Mullaney; Ben Conroy, Sean Downey; Eanna Lyons, Patrick Whelan, Aidan Corby; Willie Dunphy, Neil Foyle, Aaron Dunphy. Subs: Ross King for Dunphy (half time), Darren Maher for Lawlor (47 mins), Cian Taylor for Corby (53 mins), Stephen Bergin for P Whelan (61 mins), Conor Phelan for M Whelan (64 mins, inj), Paddy Keating for Healy (67 mins).
Scorers: Dan Nevin 0-13 (0-10 frees, 0-1 65), Joseph Cooney 1-2, Jason Flynn, Sean McInerney 0-2 each.
Team: Colm Callanan; Matthew Donohue, Paul Killeen, Jack Grealish; Ronan Burke, Martin Dolphin, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, Sean Loftus; Padraig Brehony, Joseph Cooney, Dan Nevin; Jason Flynn, Cian Salmon, David Glennon. Subs: Thomas Monaghan for Brehony (half time), John Hanbury for Coen (53 mins), Sean McInerney for Salmon (56 mins), Matthew Keating for Loftus (60 mins), Jack Coyne for Glennon (64 mins), Greg Lally for Dolphin (64 mins), Brian Concannon for Flynn (71 mins)
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)
A few candidates for Laois, with Leigh Bergin, Ben Conroy and Ryan Mullaney all doing well, but Eoin Fleming gets the nod for some truly outstanding saves over the course of the game. A big addition to the panel on this form.
Joseph Cooney's goal in the 29th minute was crucial. Laois were only picking off points at the other end, so goals were always going to be vital.
Sean Cleere endear himself to the Laois supporters, there were some odd calls over the 70 minutes.
Some positives to take from it, and with so many players to come back into the fold, what can this Laois team achieve?
Eoin Fleming's penalty save was a superb bit of goalkeeping. Enda Rowland has a huge battle on his hands to get the goalkeeper's jersey this year.
Some of the refereeing decisions were disappointing.