Laois hurlers pulled off one of the shocks of the decade when defeating Dublin by 1-22 to 0-23 at O’Moore Park.
A routine victory was widely expected for the Dubs, who finished third in the round-robin stage of the Leinster SHC, eliminating Galway in the process, but Mattie Kenny’s men didn’t live up to their pre-match billing while the Joe McDonagh Cup victors played with assuredness and immense skill to surprisingly seal an All-Ireland quarter-final date with Tipperary at Croke Park on Sunday.
A massive roar from the home faithful greeted the half-time whistle as Eddie Brennan’s brilliant charges retired for the interval with a deserved 1-12 to 0-10 advantage, Mark Kavanagh registering six first-half points and Aaron Dunphy brilliantly plundering the goal.
Cha Dwyer opened the scoring with a nice point on the run for the hosts and Kavanagh doubled their lead from a ‘65’ before Oisin O’Rorke’s brace tied the scores up after six minutes. But the O’Moore men were in the mood and Dunphy batted the sliothar to the net in the ninth minute for the game's decisive score, captain Paddy Purcell and Kavanagh (free) pointing either side of that to make it 1-4 to 0-2.
O’Rorke’s second was cancelled out by Dunphy and Cian Boland replied to another Kavanagh free as the gap remained at five midway through the first half. Dublin hit back with quickfire points from Ronan Hayes (2) and Eamonn Dillon, but the unerring Kavanagh’s fifth point (free) had the gap at four with 26 minutes gone, 1-8 to 0-7.
Ross King’s inspirational strike increased the midlanders’ lead and O’Rorke pointed a Dublin free after Enda Rowland – a match-winning hero at both ends - came off his line to deny Dillon a goal. Kavanagh, Jack Kelly and Dwyer points propelled the rampant home team seven points clear, but the jittery, out-of-sorts Dubs finished the half strongest with points from Danny Sutcliffe and Conal Keaney.
Points from O’Rorke and Boland (2) ate into the arrears in the first five minutes after the resumption and the sides would have been level but for the fact that O’Rorke missed two relatively straightforward frees. Willie Dunphy punished the Dubs with a terrific riposte but O’Rorke’s radar was functioning for his next free – 1-13 to 0-14 after 45 minutes.
Laois' Ross King celebrates after the game. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.
Aaron Dunphy and Kavanagh (free) nudged the lead out to four before Rowland denied Sutcliffe with a wonderful diving save, O’Rorke sweeping over the resulting ‘65’. O’Rorke’s free had the gap at two with 20 minutes left and the momentum now temporarily with the visitors, Sutcliffe’s exceptional solo point making it a one-point game going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth unanswered Dubs point accrued from an O’Rorke free as they drew level but Willie Dunphy and Kavanagh (free) responded before Aaron Dunphy brilliantly pushed the home side three clear again. O’Rorke nailed a couple of frees either side of one from home custodian Rowland, but Willie Dunphy lofted over a point to leave it 1-20 to 0-20 with only seven minutes remaining.
Kavanagh (free) hit the insurance point, O’Rorke replying in kind with just over three minutes to go. Substitute Paul Ryan thumped over a long-range free but the gap remained at two going into three minutes of injury time…
Rowland smashed over a free from 100 metres, which meant the red-hot favourites needed a goal to force extra time. John Lennon was sent off at the death for a second yellow-card offence, conceding the last-gasp free which Sean Moran blasted goalwards only to see the sliothar deflected over.
The roar that greeted the final whistle was deafening as a massive pitch invasion marked what is arguably the O’Moore County’s biggest championship win ever.
Laois - E Rowland (0-2f); L Cleere, M Whelan, J Phelan; J Kelly (0-1), R Mullaney, P Delaney; J Lennon, P Purcell (0-1); A Dunphy (1-2), M Kavanagh (0-9, 7f, 1'65), E Lyons; W Dunphy (0-4), C Dwyer (0-2), R King (0-1). Subs: E Killeen for P Delaney, C Phelan for J Kelly, S Bergin for R King, E Gaughan for M Kavanagh.
Dublin - A Nolan; P Smyth, S Barrett, D O'Connell; C Crummey, S Moran (0-1f), J Madden; S Treacy, T Connolly; C Keaney (0-1), D Sutcliffe (0-2), C Boland (0-3); O O'Rorke (0-12, 10f, 1'65), R Hayes (0-2), E Dillon (0-1). Subs: F Whitely for S Treacy, P Ryan (0-1f) for C Keaney, J Hetherton for C Boland.
Referee - A Kelly.Tweet