A masterclass of hard hurling with Cha Dwyer as Laois do the impossible
Laois 1-22 Dublin 0-23
Laois have done it.
They have beaten the Dublin hurlers for the first time since 2005. One week after winning the Joe McDonagh Cup, they have done the impossible in O'Moore Park to eliminate the fancied Dubs and to book their place in an All-Ireland quarter final against Tipperary next weekend.
Dublin were rattled, they were all over the place, but this is Laois' day.
Eddie Brennan's men were inspired in their home patch. Ryan Mullaney was a colossus at centre back, Willie Dunphy was a neverless killer in attack, Enda Rowland was a hero. They were all heroes.
Laois have done it.
There was a passage of play in the first half that summed this game up. Danny Sutcliffe won a ball out along the sideline and shaped up to shoot. Tom Connolly broke inside and with a lovely disguised pass, Sutcliffe picked him out with a lovely hopping ball. An easy one to take.
Connolly fumbled. Jack Kelly, that war-hound of a Laois half back smothered. He drove out of defence and found Cha Dwyer, who lamped it up the field into the acres of space that was at the Laois forwards' disposal.
Dublin didn't seem to know what they were trying to do. They couldn't string more than one pass together without a bad touch or an overcooked strike. Laois on the other hand, were wired to the moon but they were tuned in too.
Playing as a sweeper, John Lennon hit more ball than most hurlers would in a wall-ball session. Cha Dwyer was throwing himself around like a boxer chasing a knockout in the last round. A ball broke between the busty Ballinakill wrecking ball and Sean Moran. Moran went to bury him out over the line. Cha was clever. He was aware that Moran's momentum would send him flying. That the ball wouldn't budge either. He ducked under it and set up a score for Willie Dunphy.
Cha was stuck in the middle of everything in that first half. Like Cheddar Plunkett says, there is no reverse gear in him.
Here's his stat graph from that first half. Each X is where he picked the ball up, each tick indicates a score and each circle is an assist.
The hair is standing on the back of every Laois head in O'Moore Park
Cha Dwyer, Jack Kelly, Ross King and John Lennon
They're all on fire in Portlaoise and they lead Dublin by 1-12 to 0-10 at half-time pic.twitter.com/h0NS0v63F7
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 7, 2019
Dunphy was on the same wavelength alongside him. He was just after setting up his unrelated namesake Aaron for a goal. Willie gets most of the credit there. He chased down a dead ball and kept it alive. Then he rounded Sean Moran like the Cuala man has never been rounded before.
By this stage the Laois crowd were going buck mad. Paddy Purcell was giving Sean Treacy the runaround of his life in midfield. He scored a majestic long-ranger to get them going.
Roddy King was dropping deep but the distance doesn't seem to faze him. He buried one over from so far out he was nearly perched in Father Browne Avenue.
1-8 to 0-7 they led after 25 minutes. A start beyond their wildest dreams.
But Laois wanted more. With Willie Dunphy hitting a poor and uncharacteristic wide, they shook their heads and they cursed. They wanted more and more. They were six points up with five minutes to play in the second half.
For Dublin, Ronan Hayes was the only one awake. He kept them alive with a couple of brilliant scores.
Five points up at half-time. 'This is hurling country,' bellowed an elderly man wearing a Laois jersey in the crowd.
Five points up at half-time but Laois want more
Laois Laois Laois rings around O’Moore Park
Portlaoise is absolutely hopping pic.twitter.com/zEdDYAOjn6
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 7, 2019
Another passage of play told a lot in the second half. That man Sutcliffe was again involved. He was coming into the game now and having dropped deep, he did well to intercept a rare loose Laois pass.
He looked up the field and there was acres in front of him, nobody next or near him. There was also no-one running in Sky Blue though and he buried it straight out over the sideline.
Mattie Kenny looked nervous, Dublin shook heads and Laois, Laois, Laois broke out in the stands.
They picked up where they left off. Jack Kelly was still mopping up ball everywhere and Paddy Purcell was still running in straight lines.
Dublin were getting better though. Danny Sutcliffe was driving it. The St Jude's warrior hit two brilliant points and nearly had a goal only for Enda Rowland's brilliance. Cian Boland was beginning to play and Shane Barrett came out with a few balls.
Missed frees from Oisin O'Rourke were costly. The Laois train was only gathering momentum. Willie Dunphy, that Clough Ballacolla genius pointed them the whole way home.
Enda Rowland scored a couple of rakers from miles, absolute miles downtown while Ryan Mullaney was again, a giant.
Maybe that elderly man was right. Because Laois for a couple of seconds, felt like the home of hurling.
Enda Rowland (0-2f) Lee Cleere, Matthew Whelan, Joe Phelan; Jack Kelly (0-1), Ryan Mullaney, Padraig Delaney; John Lennon, Paddy Purcell (0-1) Aaron Dunphy (1-2) Mark Kavanagh (0-9, 0-7f, 0-1 65) Eanna Lyons; Willie Dunphy (0-4) Charles Dwyer (0-2) Ross King (0-1)
Eric Killeen for Podge Delaney (52), Conor Phelan for Jack Kelly (57), Stephen Bergin for King (62), Eoin Gaughan for Kavanagh (69)
Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Shane Barrett, Cian Hendricken; Chris Crummey, Seán Moran, James Madden; Seán Treacy, Tom Connolly; Conal Keaney (0-1) Danny Sutcliffe (0-2), Cian Boland (0-3) Oisín O'Rourke (0-12, 0-11f), Ronan Hayes (0-2), Eamonn Dillon (0-1)
Fergal Whitely for Sean Treacy (53), Paul Ryan for Conal Keaney (57), John Hetherton for Boland (65)