Laois the winners despite defeat against flat Tipp

Laois’ summer odyssey is over but they got to finish on terms that were perfectly acceptable given this was an All-Ireland quarter-final and their opponents were one of the game’s blue bloods.

Laois the winners despite defeat against flat Tipp

Tipperary 2-25 - Laois1-18

Laois’ summer odyssey is over but they got to finish on terms that were perfectly acceptable given this was an All-Ireland quarter-final and their opponents were one of the game’s blue bloods.

And maybe not least because they faced a half-hour of hurling here with 14 men after Aaron Dunphy was sent off. Ten points? You can’t really argue with it. The hope is that it marks merely the end of their beginning.

The game was done as a contest long before the end but the Laois supporters remained behind en bloc to cheer their team on an impromptu lap of honour. Tipp were centerfield at the time, warming down and no doubt mulling over a performance that was way below what is needed at this time of year.

Add this to their woes against Limerick in the Munster final and the impression is of a Tipp side that has gone off the boil after their blitz through the provincial group stage. That's bad timing.

Wexford will bring mettle and momentum and thousands upon thousands of Wexicans with them for their semi-final meeting in a fortnight so Tipp need to rediscover that mojo and fast.

The first step here was critical. Get off to a good start and Laois could harbour hopes of holding their own. Begin timidly and Tipperary could have the knife at their throat for the rest of the afternoon so the four points the underdogs landed inside the opening eight minutes were perfect as scene setters go.

Laois were fluid and fast off the first whistle and, while Tipp matched them, there was a sense that, if nothing else, this wouldn't list as a contest the wrong side of the half-time interval. Laois actually made it that far with only four points between them. although it was up to seven at one stage.

Tipp hit them for two goals in the half, the first from a Jason Forde penalty after the Silvermines corner-forward had been dragged to the floor by a desperate Joe Phelan.

The Munster side's forwards, not for the first time, looked dangerous when serviced with decent ball and the second three-pointer was just sublime.

Laois' formation allowed Tipp oceans of time and room in certain pockets of the pitch so Noel McGrath was under no pressure when he zeroed a flat ball down the right side of the pitch to Seamus Callanan whose first touch on the run with the bás of his stick was, well, ridiculously good.

The finish wasn't bad either.

Tipp began to turn the screw at this point. Laois' harrying, such a prominent part in their defeat of Dublin, was equally important here and yet there was a sense that this game was in danger of getting away from them as they were struggling to put points on the scoreboard at the other end too.

Callanan had a second goal attempt cleared off the line by Laois' sweeper John Lennon after 26 minutes, an intervention that prevented the lead from ballooning to nine points, but it had reached eight with two Forde dead balls before Laois finally found a bit of rhythm up front again.

Scoring 1-3 to a point from that juncture to the break kept the tie alive through the break, the goal coming from Ross King who ran on to a breaking ball behind the Tipp cover to find the net past Brain Hogan. A lucky break and one they needed as the sides made for the tunnel.

Laois selector Tommy Fitzgerald had told the players last week that they would be roared into the dressing-room against Dublin if they reached that point with the game in the balance and his players received plenty of encouragement as they disappeared under the Hogan Stand this time.

The sense was that Tipp would still prevail and with something to spare and that became all the more apparent shortly after the restart when Aaron Dunphy was shown a straight red for a strike on Padraig Maher. Dunphy's hurl was being held and you could argue about the strength of the blow but off he went.

Down five points at the time, and facing into a stiffening wind, Laois faced a long half an hour ahead given they had already been struggling to score and working overtime to plug the gaps at the back. They were going down but they did it with their heads held high against a Tipp side that just couldn't seem to raise anything like enough muster.

Where as the killer instinct? The resolve to ignore the scoreboard and play like this was a game in the balance rather than a win in the pocket?

The only pity for Laois was that Jason Forde's last point, four minutes into injury-time, made it a double-digit defeat. Not a big deal in the greater scheme of things. Laois have planted their flag on hurling's elevated plains again.

Tipp still face a climb of their own.

Scorers for Laois: M Kavanagh (0-11 frees); R King (1-0); A Dunphy and J Kelly (both 0-2); J Lennon, P Purcell and W Dunphy (all 0-1).

Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde (1-12, 1-0 penalty, 1 '65', 0-8 frees); S Callanan (1-2); N McGrath (0-3); R Maher, G Browne (both 0-2); A Flynn, P Maher, J McGrath and B Heffernan (all 0-1).

Laois: E Rowland; L Cleere, M Whelan, J Phelan; J Kelly, R Mullaney, P Delaney; J Lennon, P Purcell; A Dunphy, M Kavanagh, E Lyons; W Dunphy, C Dwyer, R King. Subs: E Killeen for Phelan (HT); S Maher for Dwyer (44); C Phelan for Lyons (58); S Bergin for W Dunphy (60); E Gaughan for Lennon (67).

Tipperary: B Hogan; C Barrett, J Barry, A Flynn; B Maher, Padraic Maher, R Maher; N McGrath, G Browne; D McCormack, J O'Dwyer, N O'Meara; J Forde, S Callanan, J McGrath. Subs: M Breen for Flynn (48); M Kehoe for O'Dwyer (54); J Cahill for Browne (57); B Heffernan for Barry (62); J Morris for O'Meara (68); S O'Brien for Barrett (73).

Referee: C Lyons (Cork).

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