Laois cast aside Westmeath to take Joe McDonagh Cup
Eddie Brennan’s side were hugely impressive in 35 points past Westmeath at Croke Park
Laois’ Ryan Mullaney celebrates with Lee Cleere after winning the Joe McDonagh Cup. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Laois 3-26 Westmeath 1-21
A red letter day for Laois at Croke Park and, perhaps, a peek into the future at the next Kilkenny manager too.
Whilst Brian Cody was preparing his team for battle in the main event of the day, Eddie Brennan was overseeing an impressive Laois who became just the second Joe McDonagh Cup winners.
They are through now to the 2020 Leinster championship and presuming Cody is still in charge of Kilkenny, the former Black and Amber allies will meet at some stage.
Laois were in a difficult spot last year but after a solid league campaign have now achieved their season’s goal of winning the McDonagh Cup in Brennan’s first campaign.
Favourites beforehand, Laois were only two points clear with a little over 20 minutes to go before bursting clear with a barrage of scores, ultimately winning with 11 points to spare.
Mark Kavanagh was terrific for them and finished with 12 points while Aaron Dunphy helped himself to 1-4 with former captain Ross King and Stephen Bergin also getting among the goals.
There were important cameos from subs Eanna Lyons and Neil Foyle, both perhaps doing enough to push their place into the team for next weekend’s preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin.
Yet for Brennan it wasn’t so much the style and subtlety of Laois’ performance that caught the eye as their rugged determination, traits he knows Cody would approve of.
“That was Brian Cody’s bread and butter, those characteristics, and if there’s anything I took from my time under him, that was it,” said Brennan, who described it as probably their most complete performance of the year.
“It was up there alright. Consistency is all I look for from players. And right through the McDonagh Cup we were consistent. We dealt with setbacks and it never took a thing out of us. That’s what I was most pleased with.”
It’s back to back final defeats for Westmeath who looked to Killian Doyle for inspiration again up front. He added 1-11 to the 2-50 he’d sniped during the group stage yet still finished up without silverware again.
The Laois goals from King and Dunphy arrived in the fourth and 19th minutes and helped them to lead 2-11 to 1-10 at half-time.
Bergin was on the field as a temporary replacement for Kavanagh – who suffered bad blistering on his feet – when he struck Laois’ third goal in the 47th minute.
It was the strike that inspired their best form and Laois twice hit four points in a row without response from Westmeath in the run-in to win pulling up.
LAOIS: E Rowland; L Cleere, M Whelan, D Hartnett; J Kelly, R Mullaney, P Delaney; J Lennon (0-2), P Purcell (0-1); A Dunphy (1-4), M Kavanagh (0-12, 0-5f, 0-2 65), S Maher; W Dunphy, C Dwyer (0-2), R King (1-0).
Substitutes: S Bergin (1-0) for Kavanagh 44-48, Bergin for King 48, E Lyons (0-3) for Maher 56, N Foyle (0-2) for Dwyer 58, J Phelan for Kelly 71.
WESTMEATH: C Lynch; D Egerton, T Doyle, G Greville; L Varley, A Clarke (0-2), P Greville; S Clavin (0-1), J Gilligan; J Boyle (0-1), K Doyle (1-11, 0-6f, 0-1 s/l), C Boyle (0-1); R Greville, D Clinton, A Devine (0-1).
Substitutes: E Price (0-1) for Gilligan 33, D McNicholas (0-1) for Clinton h/t, C Doyle (0-2) for C Boyle 54, D O’Reilly for Devine 66, A Craig for G Greville 70.
Referee: C Cunning (Antrim).