Relief for Mattie Kenny as Dublin overcome opening night nerves in ‘cut and thrust’ battle
Dublin 1-20 Laois 2-15
If the Dublin hurlers go on to have a successful 2022 championship, they will put this match down to first-night nerves. But there better have been some excuse for a poor display by a Dublin team that does have dreams of treading the big stages in a few months’ time.
Because in the fading light at Parnell Park, Dublin were grimly hanging on Saturday evening, with Chris Crummey needing to get a stick high to block away an injury-time Enda Rowland free that was heading for the Dublin net and which would have won the match for the visitors.
It should never have come to that for Dublin, but they shot a shocking total of 18 wides during the game, some of them from very comfortable positions.
Even the superb man of the match, Dublin’s Donal Burke, was afflicted by the general malaise. He did score 13 points in all, five from play, but the perfectionist in Burke will know he ought to have had at least four more.
Dublin’s forwards only got going in glimpses. Their starting attack scored a single point from play in the first half, and the second half brought a limited improvement, but it needed sub Alex Considine to secure the vital second-half goal that ultimately won it for Dublin.
Laois too were not giving an impression of William Tell. Seven second-half wides, many from good positions, betrayed their cause.
Their first goal was from an error by Dublin goalie Seán Brennan, their second was a free from goalkeeper Rowland. But despite the best efforts of PJ Scully and Paddy Purcell, they really hadn’t the forward power to win this match. Certainly they had no one of Burke’s class.
But there were times, too, when Dublin outmuscled the Laois players in the fights and tussles for loose ball. Certainly Dublin turned over Laois possession far more often than Laois did it to Dublin.
Laois had gotten off to a decent start – and Mark Dowling’s 11th-minute goal ought to have been just the tonic for the visitors, Dowling tapping the sliotar into the Dublin net after Ciarán McEvoy’s long-range effort for a Laois point had been saved, but tapped back down into play by Brennan. But Burke’s points were a vital source of scores and they proved the difference.Mind you, the difference in the end became a subject of debate, with the Parnell Park scoreboard having Dublin four points up instead of two as Rowland squared up to the late free.
“I knew there was only two points in it then,” admitted Dublin boss Mattie Kenny. “I knew the significance of the free. Look, it was a typical Championship match, full of cut-and-thrust and we came out on the right side of it. We battled hard for the win and now we’ve a lot of work to do to be ready for Wexford next Saturday.”
Indeed Dublin have, and they simply have to find a spark in that forward line that was so poor at times on Saturday. The Dublin defence was solid with Eoghan O’Donnell and Paddy Smyth guarding the central channels and wing-backs Donnacha Ryan and James Madden getting forward to try and ignite a spark among their forwards.
For Laois, it was a frustrating outing. They were very close to a shock win, one that would have set them up for a good few weeks. But they let themselves down too at times.
Any team playing Dublin has to know that Burke will score frees, don’t foul and you cut off a key Dublin source of turning over the scoreboard. But Laois gave Dublin too many easy frees in this one and now they go to Kilkenny next Saturday night more in hope that confidence. Dublin will travel to Wexford in much the same fashion after this.
Scorers – Dublin: D Burke 0-13 (8f); A Considine 1-0 (f); F Whitely 0-3; J Madden, C Crummey, P Crummey, R Hayes 0-1 each. Laois: PJ Scully 0-8 (5f); E Rowland 1-2 (1-2f); M Dowling 1-0; J Keyes 0-2; R King, C Dwyer, A Corby 0-1 each.
DUBLIN – S Brennan 6; J Bellew 6, E O’Donnell 8, C O’Callaghan 8; D Ryan 8, P Smyth 8, J Madden 8; C Burke 6, C Crummey 6, D Burke 9, D Keogh 5, D Sutcliffe 5; E Dillon 5, F Whitely 7, R Hayes 6. Subs: A Mellett 6 for Keogh (32), A Considine 7 for Dillon (60), P Crummey for Sutcliffe (67), S Barrett for Smyth (69).
LAOIS – E Rowland 8; D Hartnett 7, C McEvoy 7, S Downey 6; P Delaney 7, L O’Connell 6, R Mullaney 6; F Fennell 7, J Kelly 6; C Dwyer 5, P Purcell 6, J Keyes 7; R King 6, PJ Scully 8, M Dowling 6. Subs: A Corby 6 for King (48), P Dunne 6 for Delaney (56), B McGinley for Dowling (63), C Byrne for Dwyer (69).
Ref – L Gordon (Galway).
Game At A Glance
Man of the Match
Donal Burke (Dublin)
He is one of the elite forwards in the game. Had Burke been playing for Laois they would have won the match comfortably – that was the Na Fianna man’s influence on the contest. Burke scored 13 points in all, eight from frees and five from play, to help give Dublin a lead they just clung onto at the end. He was comfortably the best player on the field.
Why was this match of such a poor standard? Both teams shot terrible wides, misplaced passes, and found some of the basic skills beyond them at times. Yes, there was a blustery wind coming diagonally across Parnell Park, but that does not explain how two teams dragged each other into a dogfight, rather than a good hurling match.
It came right at the end, when all the Dublin team were lined up in front of their goal, to make sure Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland did not crash a second free into their net. Chris Crummey’s deflection denied him.
Wides – Dublin: 18 (10), Laois: 10 (3)
Yellow cards – Dublin: 2 (1), Laois: 2 (1)
Red cards – none
Attendance: 5,000 (estimated)