Kilkenny 4-24 Laois 1-13: A BIT OF order was restored at Portlaoise last night following a strange hurling weekend as Kilkenny recaptured the Leinster Under-21 title by ruthlessly dismissing Laois’ challenge at O’Moore Park.
Kilkenny scored early and often as their inside line of Walter Walsh, John Power, and Ger Aylward tormented the home team. The movement and skill of the Kilkenny attack was outstanding and Walter Walsh manufactured a third-minute chance for Aylward, who rattled the Laois net. Aylward then banged over a point as Kilkenny led 1-4 to 0-0 within four minutes.
Kilkenny led by six points 11 minutes in when another opportunity was crafted by Walter Walsh and this time around it was Power who slammed a blistering shot past Eoin Fleming.
Richie Mulrooney’s charges were ruling the contest with all six forwards scoring from play such was their utter dominance. Their advantage was a staggering 2-12 to 0-3 by the 22nd minute when Power scorched through for a delightful goal.
When the interval eventually rolled around Kilkenny were 3-14 to 0-6 in the ascendancy and Laois were simply eager to put some semblance of respectability on the final scoreline.
And for a brief spell in the third quarter it appeared as if they might be able to carry out this feat when Neil Foyle goaled a 39th-minute free. But normal service was resumed following a Stephen Maher point as Kilkenny hit four points on the spin to regain the initiative.
Seven minutes from time Kilkenny pounced for a fourth goal and there was an inevitability that it arrived from the stick of Aylward. Menacing throughout, the tricky corner forward expertly caught substitute Cathal Kenny’s pass before firing home the insurance goal.
Moments later Laois’ Packie Flynn was dismissed for a second bookable offence as Kilkenny easily closed the deal. Fittingly it was Pádraig Walsh and man-of-the-match Aylward who completed the scoring with late points as Kilkenny gleaned the provincial title.
Next month’s All-Ireland semi-final with Galway should be an interesting affair. There is evidence to suggest that Kilkenny have assembled an exciting crop at this level and they leave the Leinster Championship armed with a favourable reputation.
KILKENNY: D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy; L Harney, R Doyle, J Lyng; G Brennan (0-1), O Walsh; K Kelly (0-6, five frees), P Walsh (0-6), C Buckley (0-2); W Walsh (0-2), J Power (2-1), G Aylward (2-5). Subs: O McGrath for Harney (44 mins), M Gaffney (0-1) for O Walsh (44 mins), C Kenny for Buckley (49 mins), E Jones for W Walsh (58 mins).
LAOIS: E Fleming; P Flynn, G Burke, A Phelan; J Fitzpatrick, B Duggan, N Unwin; D Freeman, B Dunne; W Dunphy (0-1), P Lawlor, S Maher (0-7, five frees); B Reddin, N Foyle (1-1, 1-0 free), D King (0-4). Subs: J Ryan for Lawlor (27 mins), C McEvoy for Phelan (31 mins), C O’Dwyer for Unwin (31 mins), R King for Reddin (44 mins), J Finane for Fitzpatrick (50 mins).
Referee: G McGrath (Dublin).