Laois players celebrate their famous win over Dublin three summers ago. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

'We didn’t show up' - Dublin's shock 2019 defeat to Laois revisited

Ronan Hayes knows that Laois sides must not be underestimated.

WHILE MANY WILL expect Dublin to come through Saturday’s Leinster SHC round one clash unscathed, Ronan Hayes knows better than most not to underestimate Laois opposition. 

The full-forward was part of the Sky Blues side that suffered an infamous loss to Laois in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final in 2019. In the more recent past, Hayes’s Kilmacud Crokes went down to Clough-Ballacolla in last year’s Leinster club semi-final.

So it’s fair to see Hayes and his team-mates have a few reasons to be wary of the O’Moore County, even if the form book suggests a straightforward victory for Mattie Kenny’s side.

“We’d know each other fairly well over the last number of years,” remarks Hayes.

“There are also a few Clough-Ballacolla lads on the Laois team and within their set-up.

“We’d be pretty aware of their abilities. We know each other fairly well.”

The shock defeat to Eddie Brennan’s team three seasons ago arrived after Dublin came out of Leinster ahead of Galway, who were All-Ireland champions two years earlier. 

“I played that day when they got the better of us. They were really on form and flying it and we were just a couple of percent off. If your opponent is playing to the best of their ability and you’re a couple of per cent off they’ll punish you for it.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes we didn’t show up at the races. It wasn’t a matter of who the opponent was. It was more our own approach to it. If we were playing Kilkenny or Tipp or Cork on the day it wouldn’t have really mattered so I don’t think it was complacency. We just didn’t show up.

“The team was a little bit more unsettled. It’s been a couple of years since Mattie took over and the team is much more mature. There are steadier heads on shoulders these days. They just got the better of us that day; they had our number and really capitalised on it.”

The Clough-Ballacolla result wasn’t quite as big an upset, yet they were still 3/1 outsiders and drew their numbers from a small parish in comparison with Kilmacud’s giant numbers. 

“On the night, Clough-Ballacolla were worth their win. They were a better team. There’s definitely a sense of disappointment that we didn’t show up as we thought we could and would.

“We were doing everything with the right intentions – working hard and trying to make the right decisions but our execution let us down and they punished us for that.”

Dublin enjoyed a strong league campaign, finishing on the same number of points as eventual winners Waterford. Mattie Kenny’s side only missed out on the semi-final places on scoring difference.

“We got what we needed out of the league and, like I said at the start, it was a positive league for us and the Walsh Cup as well so it bodes well for the championship now,” he says.

They head for what is expected to be a four-team battle for the top three in Leinster, with Wexford, Galway and Kilkenny.

‘The round robin, it’s great in terms of you can get a bit of momentum.

ronan-hayes Dublin full-forward Hayes. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s very much like the league, where you can get a couple of results in a row and sort of build up a head of steam coming into the knockout stages but then again from a player’s point of view, knockout hurling is what you want to be playing.

“Round robin does tend to get like that towards round three and four but yeah, it’s a great system and it definitely suits the championship as a whole.”

Now in his fourth year in charge, Kenny looks like a manager who knows his best team.

He maintained the same spine for the spring campaign, which includes Eoghan O’Donnell at full-back, Paddy Smyth at six, Conor Burke and Chris Crummey in centre-field, Riain McBride at centre-forward and Hayes at 14. 

“I think the players have been there for the last four years and even longer than that, lads know each other very well and there are relationships built there,” says Hayes.

“In terms of ability I think there is tons of ability within the team. Getting it right on the day and getting our set up and our own structure right is starting to come good for us.

“The approach to the league is the same as it is for a lot of teams for the last couple of years in terms of using it as a platform to get our best team out and really nail down our structure and how we want to play the game.

:That will hopefully translate into championship fixtures but it was something that we got a few things right here and there in the league and we kind of stuck at them so that was the approach.”

Hayes broke onto the team during Pat Gilroy’s season in charge and, now 24, his eye for goal makes him a threat when the right ball goes in. 

“I think it’s something I’ve done since I was very young. As a young lad you want to score goals, nobody talks about who scores the points! It’s something that I’ve kept.

“I don’t think I consciously go after it but every time I get the ball I just get excited and want to run at the goal and try to score a goal. 

“Patience is a must inside, you have to be constantly making runs over and back, trying to make yourself available and get some space, you have to keep going and eventually the one or two balls you do get could be the difference.

“If lads are putting the ball over from out the field you don’t mind it as much, but when lads are shooting from out the way and they are going wide it can be a bit frustrating, just have to keep the head down and keep working from side to side.”

-Ronan Hayes was speaking at the launch of Beacon Hospital’s sponsorship of Kilmacud Crokes 

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