The hurt and pain brewing in the Clare camp over the past four weeks boiled to the surface in front of 5,518 patrons at Cusack Park and it was rather unfortunate from a Laois perspective they had to endure the Banner backlash stemming from the Waterford defeat.
The favourites had their first goal inside six minutes and the writing was already on the wall for the visitors as Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland had twice been called into action to deny David Reidy and Shanagher before the latter pounced for the first of his four green flags.
Shanagher’s second arrived during a 1-7 burst directly following Ben Conroy’s sending-off for a second bookable offence on 27 minutes. Cahir Healy was also forced off with a suspected dislocated shoulder in the same play. And throw in the ankle injury which saw Leigh Bergin stretchered off inside 10 minutes and it was beginning to look terribly bleak for the underdogs.
The gap stood at 15 points at the break — 2-14 to 0-5 — and when Laois did eventually manage their sixth white flag of the contest on 46 minutes, ending as it did a 21-minute barren spell, the home side had already tacked on a further eight points through Podge Collins, Tony Kelly (0-3), Shanagher, Conor Cleary, Shane O’Donnell and David McInerney.
Shanagher brought his goal tally to four with green flags on 50 and 51 minutes, with Podge Collins bagging their fifth just before Cha Dwyer’s second yellow on 65 minutes reduced Laois to 13 men.
“It has been a long month, a hard month. Laois were unlucky that we were in the form we were in today,” said Fitzgerald. “If we are being straight, we didn’t perform in a Munster semi-final. And we are hurting after that. People can say what they want. Of the 15 games we have played this year that was our only loss. I don’t think one game makes us a bad team.”
Saturday’s victory has Clare in the bowl for this morning’s second round qualifier draw and amongst the eight remaining teams in the championship. Fitzgerald, though, believes the team’s collective work-rate can still be improved.
“I don’t we feel we are back yet, but I feel we are on the right road. Our work-rake, our tackles and our blocks weren’t there against Waterford. We have to get that hunger, that desire. We lacked that over the last year or two.
“We are going to be up against Cork, Wexford or Limerick. We know that is going to be a massive challenge. Any of them teams are capable of beating anyone. It is going to be a massive game, but isn’t that what championship is about?”
On Shanagher’s four-goal contribution, he added: “He scored four, probably could have scored another two. He is showing that form in training and that is the reason he got the start today.”
Defeat for Laois means their 2016 championship draws to a close without a single win. After four years at the helm, Plunkett said he will consider his position in the coming weeks.
“I will look at it over the next couple of weeks. This is not a day for such decision. I think the most exciting time for Laois hurling is the next five or six years,” he maintained.
“This year was a standstill year. The game itself was an example of the year really. We had Ben sent off early.
“Other teams might have the volume of quality players to deal with that, we don’t. We had two serious injuries early on and they strike us very hard.
“Hurling is not on the floor in Laois. Hurling is very strong in Laois. Hurling would be on the floor if the culture in this dressing-room was poor. The culture and spirit in this dressing-room is fantastic.
“What do you do? Give up? We are not going to give up. Laois hurling will not give up.” Scorers for
A Shanagher (4-1); T Kelly (0-10, 0-7 frees); P Collins (1-3); C O’Connell (0-5, 0-4 frees); D McInerney, S O’Donnell (0-3 each); J Conlon, C Galvin C Cleary (0-2 each); S Golden (0-1 each).
W Hyland (0-3, 0-3 frees); E Rowland (0-2 frees), C Dwyer (0-2 each); N Foyle, M Kavanagh, W Dunphy, PJ Scully (0-1 free), M Whelan (0-1 each).
A Fahy; O’Brien, C Dillon, P O’Connor; J Browne, D McInerney, B Bugler; C Cleary, D Reidy; Calvin, J Conlon, T Kelly; P Collins, S O’Donnell, A Shanagher.
D Fitzgerald for McInerney (43 mins); S Morey for Cleary (43): C O’Connell for Kelly (47); S Golden for Reidy (46); C Ryan for Conlon (51).
E Rowland; R Mullaney, P Purcell, D Palmer; C Stapleton, C Healy, M Whelan; J Lennon, L Bergin; B Conroy, C Dwyer, PJ Scully; W Hyland, N Foyle, W Dunphy.
R King for Bergin (10 mins, inj); P Lawlor for Healy (28, inj); M Kavanagh for Scully (40); D Maher for Stapleton (49); J Phelan for Dunphy (58).
B Kelly (Westmeath).