Laois win All Ireland Tony Forrestal
Laois under 14 hurlers put in magnificent displays to win the Tony Forrestal All Ireland B under 14 title for the third time in four years at O’Moore Park on Saturday evening.
Having played five games and come through the group stages, the quarter and semi finals with impressive displays they came up against hot favourites Westmeath in the final and after a wonderful team display of heart, determination and displaying oodles of skill they won the title with four points to spare at the finish.
It was a thrilling finale to a wonderful days hurling and the young Laois lads certainly did themselves and their county proud all day but particularly in the final when with tired limbs they took the game to the favourites and beat them with a fine brand of team hurling.
In 2009 Laois won the title in Waterford after a long break and then retained it in Portlaoise a year later and lost last years final at the same venue. In all three finals Antrim were the opposition but this year Laois had to beat Antrim on route to the final and then take on Westmeath.
Westmeath were backboned by the Raharney side that had won the last two Feile na Gael titles and that had beaten Portlaoise in this years decider.
Managed by Andy Bergin, Jack Nolan, Enda Lyons and Ollie Hally the Laois development squad had been brought together this year and months of intense coaching had moulded them into a formidable unit.
Three weeks ago they had travelled to Monaghan and won the Ulster Blitz beaten all six teams they played that day. They also had splendid outings against Offaly and Wexford and just a week ago beat Kilkenny by five points in a challenge.
On Saturday they beat Mayo and Down in the group stage before beating Roscommon in the quarter final and then Antrim in the semi final.
In all 24 players played in the games on Saturday representing 12 clubs with 13 different players scoring on the day
Round 1 Laois 3-14 Mayo 0-2
Playing with the wind in Clonad Laois got off to a flying start and goals from Kevin O’Rourke and Denis Cahill gave them a foundation for victory. With midfield on top the forwards picked off scores and fine points from captain Mark Kavanagh, O’Rourke, Cahill, Liam O’Connell, Joe Carroll and Caolan Murphy and a final goal from Fiachra Fennell gave them an impressive victory.
Scorers: Denis Cahill 1-2, Kevin O’Rourke 1-2, Mark Kavanagh 0-4, Fiachra Fennel 1-0, Liam O’Connell 0-2, Caolan Murphy 0-2, Joe Carroll, Shane Smith 0-1.
Round 2 Laois 4-6 Down 0-7
This was a tougher challenge with a strong Down side forcing Laois to up the ante. Again a quick start was the order of the day and again it was Kevin O’Rourke who got a long range goal and two more from Mark Kavanagh and a fourth from Shane Whelan gave them a strong lead at half time as they turned over against the strong breeze.
Down outscored them in the second half but Laois had enough in hand to hold on for a comfortable victory
Scorers: Mark Kavanagh 2-3, Kevin O’Rourke 1-0, Shane Whelan 1-0, Dennis Cahill 0-2, Liam O’Connell 0-1
Quarter Final Laois 6-8 Roscommon 1-1
It was now into the Portlaoise GAA Grounds and Portlaoise had another comprehensive victory over Roscommon with Shane Whelan, John O’Dwyer and Mark Kavanagh getting early points before Dennis Cahill struck for the opening goal.
By half time the goal total was four with Cahill getting a second, Whelan another and full forward Caolan Murphy the fourth.
The goal fest continued in the second half with Joe Carroll and Murphy hitting the net and fine points from Oisin Nolan and Fionn Sinnott.
Semi Final: Laois 3-10 Antrim 0-4
Antrim have proved tough opposition for Laois and beat them in last years final but on this occasion the O’Moores were on a mission and recorded one of their biggest and most impressive victories over them.
Again it was Kevin O’Rourke who struck for an early goal and a second from Shane Whelan settle the side with Cahill, Kavanagh, O’Dwyer, Murphy and O’Connell picking off points for a 2-5 to 0-2 half time lead.
Laois continued to punish the Northerners in the second half and points from Fionn Sinnott, Murphy and a goal and two points from Mark Kavanagh sealed a final place.
Scorers; Mark Kavanagh 1-3, Kevin O‘Rourke 1-0, Shane Whelan 1-0, Caolan Murphy 0-3, John O’Dwyer, Fionn Sinnott, Denis Cahill, Liam O’Connell 0-1 each
Final: Laois 3-5 Westmeath 3-1.
The teams now moved to O’Moore Park for the expected final between Laois and Westmeath with a huge support for the home side in the stand.
Again they struck early with Mark Kavanagh first pointing from a free adding a super score from play and then watching as a long range shot went all the way to the net off the goalies hurley.
It was a dream start but Laois were on top in all sectors with the threat from the brilliant Doyle twins on the Westmeath side well curtailed.
A fine point from Liam O’Connell gave Laois a 1-4 to 0-0 lead but the twins eventually broke free to score 1-1 between them before the break.
On the restart Westmeath hit the butt of the post with a goal shot but four minutes in Pat Williams struck for the home sides second goal but immediately Westmeath hit back with their second to leave just three points between the side again.
Mark Kavanagh made that four from a free and then nine minutes in Caolan Murphy struck for another goal and Laois were in the driving seat but again Westmeath fought back and a goal from a 20m free left just four between them with five minutes remaining.
Laois now showed real heart and commitment as they held Westmeath scoreless to the finish and pulled off a memorable victory.
Scorers: Mark Kavanagh 1-2, Caolan Murphy 1-1, Pat Williams 1-0, Liam O’Connell 0-1
Laois: Ethan O’Reilly(Portlaoise), Cillian Rowney (Ballyfin), Conor Phelan (Naomh Eamon), Shane Fitzpatrick (The Harps), Andrew Mortimor (Camross), Liam O’Connell (Rathdowney Errill), Michael Moran (The Harps), Oisin Nolan (Park Ratheniska), Kevin O’Rourke (Ballyfin), John O’Dwyer (Clough Ballacolla), Denis Cahill (Park Ratheniska) Pat Williams (Mountrath) Shane Whelan (Portlaoise), Caolan Murphy (Portlaoise) Mark Kavanagh (Rathdowney Errill).
Subs: Liam Dunphy (The Harps), Joe Carroll (Mountrath) Tristan Tobin (Portlaoise) Shane Smith (Portlaoise) Karl Brothwood (Clough Ballacolla), Paul Connolly (Ballyfin), Sean Downey (The Harps), Fionn Sinnott (Colt), Fiachra Fennell (Rosenallis), Daniel Williams (Ballyfin), Finbarr Conway (Clough Ballacolla), Dara Phelan (Portlaoise), Eoghan Nealon (Portlaoise), Declan Foyle (The Harps) Mark Whelan (Borris Kilcotton) Eanna Lyons (Ballyfin).
After the game President Elect Liam O’Neill presented the cup to Laois captain Mark Kavanagh450