Galway 4-21 Laois 0-07
It wasn't just the cold air that stopped Galway from breaking a sweat in O'Moore Park, as the Tribesman cruised past a young Laois team with little or no difficulty to set up a Leinster semi-final clash with Kilkenny next weekend.
The 2018 minor champions moved through the gears once Donal O’Shea fired in their first goal with eleven minutes on the clock, racking up the scores at one end while maintaining a vice-like grip on the Laois forwards at the other end of the field.
With just three training sessions done since the end of the second lockdown, Laois were always unfancied going into this contest, but manager Enda Lyons – a Galway native – will have been pleased with their application and effort in the early stages.
They threw themselves into the contest early on, competing well in the middle third and only falling 0-3 to 0-1 behind due to the concession of a series of frees in the left corner of their defence.
That bright start didn’t last however. They were rocked by two first quarter injuries, three early wides were further blows to their confidence, and once Donal O’Shea threaded an inch perfect shot across the goal and about six inches inside the far post, Galway’s path to victory looked clear and free.
With momentum on their side, Galway started to pick off some sublime scores.
Diarmuid Kilcommins, Conor Walsh and Ian McGlynn all fired over from distance, while defensively the westerners had all the answers. Centre back Adam Brett, a wing forward in that minor victory two years ago and centre back tonight, played deep and covered his full back line, crowding out the Laois corner forwards as they tried to attack the low diagonal deliveries that the home side played throughout the half.
Space was at a premium, and in the tight exchanges, Galway usually emerged with the ball up against a Laois forward line where all six starters will be U-20 again in 2021.
A wonderfully skilful score from Fionn Holland was a rare bright spark for Laois as they dropped 1-11 to 0-4 behind at the interval.
There was to be no respite after half-time either. The trio of Kilcommins, Walsh and McGlynn all picked off points in the opening five minutes of the second half, and by the tenth minute of action Galway had their second goal – a penalty from O’Shea, awarded after McGlynn was dragged down with the goal at his mercy.
McGlynn did raise a green flag off a similar attack, this time getting his shot away while the referee allowed advantage for another rugby-style tackle. O’Shea also got a second penalty chance, awarded when John Fleming tried to attack a lateral pass from Seán MacDonagh and Enda Parlon pulled across the Meelick-Eyrecourt man, drawing a red card.
Cathal Dunne blocked the penalty strike, but in keeping with the type of night it was for both teams, the rebound flew up in the air and fell perfectly for Mark Kennedy to bat in a fourth Galway goal.
With just fourteen Laois men on the field for the final quarter, Adrian Prendergast, Caimín Killeen, McDonagh and corner back Jason O’Donoghue were all able to tack on further points in a one-sided conclusion.
Galway: Darach Fahy; Oisín Salmon, TJ Brennan, Jason O’Donoghue (0-01); Diarmuid Kilcommins (0-02), Adam Brett, Dylan Shaughnessy; Alex Connaire (0-01), Ian McGlynn (1-02); Conor Walsh (0-02), Sean Neary (0-01), Adrian Prendergast (0-01); Donal O’Shea (2-07, 0-06 frees, 1-00 pen, 0-01 '65), John Fleming (0-01), Oisín Flannery.
Subs: Seán MacDonagh (0-02, 0-01 sideline) for Flannery (37), Conor Flaherty for Brett (45), Mark Kennedy (1-00) for Walsh (45), Caimín Killeen (0-01) for Fleming (50).
Laois: Cathal Dunne; Danny Brennnan, Enda Parlon, Aaron Gaughan; Fionán Mahony, Ciarán Burke, Padraic Dunne; John Maher, Joe Phelan (0-01); Ciarán Byrne, Daniel Delaney (0-04 frees), Thep Fitzpatrick; James Duggan, Mark Hennessy, Tomás Keyes (0-01).
Subs: Ian Shanahan for Gaughan (10), Fionn Holland (0-01) for Keyes (14), Ciarán Conroy for Fitzpatrick (37), Cormac Rigney for Duggan (51), Eoin O’Connor for Holland (52).
Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dublin)