Laois 2-12 Westmeath 0-12
Padraig Clancy kept alive Laois hopes of an O’Byrne Cup semi-final spot with a rousing individual display in Portlaoise.
The veteran midfielder-turned-full forward contributed 2-3 from play as Justin McNulty’s side eventually shrugged off Westmeath.
His 45th minute goal opened up a five-point lead that was whittled back to two at one stage and the lead could have been lost altogether but for Eoin Culliton being equal to a Kelvin Reilly shot four minutes from time.
They kept their heads, though, and in the end ran out six-point winners, helped considerably by Clancy palming in a squared kick-pass from Cahir Healy in the last minute of normal time.
Laois had been the better in the early exchanges but a David McCormack point for Westmeath separated them until Ross Munnelly opened the home side’s account in the 10th minute.
Up until that, they had three wides, MJ Tierney kicked an effort into Gary Connaughton’s hands and Jason Lynch was on the line to block Ambrose Doran’s goalbound shot.
Doran had taken delivery from Padraig Clancy who had fetched expertly from a well-directed Munnelly crossfield ball into the parallelogram.
Dominating midfield, Laois’s advantage didn’t manifest itself on the scoreline until the 19th minute when John O’Loughlin combined swiftly with Darren Strong before slotting over from 30 yards.
Laois were making hay with Gary Connaughton’s kick-outs and were clearly the more industrious. Yet they were still operating a defensive system and relying on the counter-attack.
This was a severely weakened Westmeath team, though, with eight changes to the one that beat Athlone IT by 12 points on Sunday.
However, the visitors equalised via a Paul Bannon free after McCormack was fouled and, despite going behind by two, restored parity again by the 30th minute thanks to Denis Corroon and then Ciaran Curley after a penetrating Paul Sharry run.
That Laois brace had come from a MJ Tierney 45, after Clancy made himself a nuisance, and then the Timahoe full-forward himself when he hooked over what looked a dubious score from the stands.
Two more placed balls from Tierney, from frees, provided Laois with another two-point cushion but it was halved by a Kelvin Reilly free when John O’Loughlin picked up a yellow card for upending an advancing Sharry.
Just a point ahead at the break, 0-6 to 0-5, Laois restarted with purpose and Clancy registered a second point.
McCormack, like he did in the first half, equalised only for Clancy to again wrestle away from Kieran Gavin and slot over his third point of the game.
Two minutes later and he had added a goal to his name. As it turned out, he wasn’t finished there.
Scorers for Laois: P Clancy 2-3; MJ Tierney 0-4 (3f, 1 45); R Munnelly 0-2 (1f); J O’Loughlin, C Begley, C Healy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath: C Curley 0-4 (2f); David McCormack, K Reilly 0-2 (1f) each; P Bannon (1f), D Corroon, P Sheridan, Daley McCormack (1f) 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Culliton; C Healy, D Booth, P O’Leary; D Strong, J O’Loughlin, P McMahon; C Begley, C Coss; R Munnelly, C Meredith, B Sheehan; MJ Tierney, P Clancy, A Doran. Subs: C Delaney for Doran (h-t); M Timmons for McMahon (54); S Julian for Coss (58); E Malone for Tierney (60).
WESTMEATH: G Connaughton; J Lynch, K Gavin, K Maguire; Damien Dolan, P Sharry, D Harte; D Corroon, P Bannon; K Reilly, C McCormack, P Sheridan; D Mullen, C Curley, D McCormack. Subs: R Foley for C McCormack (inj 8); M Curley for Sharry (48); Daley McCormack for Bannon (56); E O’Gorman for David McCormack (63).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).