EVEN the Galway people who travelled, players, management and over a thousand fans, felt sorry for Laois goalkeeper Patrick Mullaney after this total mismatch in Portlaoise on Saturday.
No-one could have foreseen this, no-one would have wanted this, not even the most myopic Galway supporter.
At half time Laois trailed by 11 points, 3-8 to 0-6. It would have been double that but for the heroics of Mullaney. Galway full-forward Richie Murray had two of those goals, twice more he was denied as was impressive centre-forward David Forde. One point-blank save off Murray was instantly pounced on by corner-forward Alan Kerins, for Galway’s third major.
After the break it got worse, for both Laois and Mullaney. For a brief period the home side threatened, and 10 minutes after the restart the gap was down to two goals, 3-9 to 1-9, after replacement full-forward Mark Rooney got on the end of a long centre, turned inside two Galway defenders, side-stepped a third, before crashing to the net from about 20m. That goal, however, softly conceded, merely spurred Galway to greater effort.
Two goals in five minutes by Kerins had the score at 5-11 to 1-9 in the 54th minutes; two further goals within one minute, by the rampant Kerins in one corner, Damien Hayes in the other, made it 7-14 to 2-11 with still five minutes of regular time remaining (Rooney had also got the second Laois goal), time enough for Galway to tack on a further four points, the last two from impressive full-forward replacement Cathal Connolly, son of former star John. Oh misery.
Immediately on the final whistle, Galway keeper Liam Donoghue made a bee-line for his opposite number, offered a few words of consolation.
“What can you say to him?” said Donoghue. “It’s demoralising for a goalie; I’m upset at letting in two goals, he’s after letting in seven.”
What of Laois? Next up for them is a visit to Mullingar in two weeks to take on Westmeath; any other year, that would be a foregone conclusion, win for Laois. Not now, and manager Dinny Cahill is feeling the pressure.
“It’s a game, we have to play it,” he said; “But there’s a round of (club) championship next weekend. It was the goals that really divided us, Galway were moving well, picking up the breaking ball. We’ll be training during the week, working on that, trying to cut down on the space that was created by the Galway lads.”
It was a lot more than goals that separated these two teams, I’m afraid. It wasn’t quite the Grand Canyon, perhaps, but there was a major gulf in class evident. It wasn’t too long ago, after another heavy league loss, that Cahill was promising major improvement in his side once summer came and the ground firmed up, the ball travelled faster; well, unless Laois play Westmeath in the Dunne’s Stores car-park in Mullingar, the surface won’t get any firmer.
On this evidence, far from making progress this year, Laois have gone backwards. Seven of the U-21 team that ran Wexford so close in the recent Leinster U-21 championship game saw action on Saturday, six as starters; two of those are minor.
How much good will this have done them? Opposite side of that coin, how much good will it have done Galway? Not much, reckons Hayes. “It’s difficult to know how good we are, we were expecting a much closer game.
“We thought we were picking our strongest team today, but now we’re still not sure. We have lads like Kevin Broderick, David Tierney, Niall Healy, all there from last year. This leaves us with question marks, should we go back to those or stick with what we have?”
Scorers: Galway: A. Kerins 4-2; R. Murray 2-1; D. Hayes 1-2; G. Farragher 0-4 (0-1 free, 0-1 65); F. Healy 0-3; A. Keary 0-2; C. Connolly 0-2; D. Forde, K. Burke, 0-1 each. Laois: M. Rooney 2-1; J. Young 0-8 (0-5 frees); J. Fitzpatrick 0-2 (0-1 s/l); J. Phelan, Z. Keenan (free), 0-1 each.
GALWAY: L. Donoghue; D. Joyce, T. Óg Regan, O. Canning; D. Hardiman, S. Kavanagh, M.J. Quinn; D. Collins, F. Healy; G. Farragher, D. Forde, A. Keary; A. Kerins, R. Murray, D. Hayes.
Subs: G. Mahon (Quinn inj. 52); E. Lynch (Collins 66); K. Burke (Kerins 66); C. Connolly (Murray 66).
LAOIS: P. Mullaney (c); B. Campion, Pakie Cuddy, M. McEvoy; J. A. Delaney, J. Walsh, J. Hyland; J. Phelan, J. Fitzpatrick; J. Brophy, J. Young, C. Healy; Z. Keenan, T. Fitzgerald, J. Hooban.
Subs: M. Rooney (Hooban 31); W. Hyland (Brophy 53); D. Culleton (Keenan inj. 59).
Referee: B. White (Tipperary). Well up with play, good job.