By Cóilín Duffy
Laois maintained Division 1B status, while Roscommon and Tyrone will play in Division 2B and 3A respectively in 2017, after today’s Allianz Hurling League Playoffs.
A clinical Laois side registered their first league win of 2016, with a 0-23 to 0-16 victory over Division 2A champions Westmeath at O’Connor Park, Tullamore.
Seamus Plunkett’s charges remain in Division 1B, after a strong second half performance with PJ Scully (0-10) and Charles Dwyer (0-6) among their key men, as they claimed a seven-point win.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, with the sides tied on nine occasions inside the opening 27 minutes.
Indeed Westmeath led by 0-12 to 0-11 at half-time, but Laois upped their game on the restart, with the Lake County’s shooting wayward in the closing 35 minutes.
Westmeath came into this game with the best defensive record across all Divisions, along with also not conceding a goal on the way to Division 2A silverware.
Michael Ryan’s side again kept a clean sheet in this encounter, and looked impressive in the first half, with Niall O’Brien firing six points from play in the opening 35 minutes, including the first score.
A Scully point levelled the game at 0-10 apiece after 27 minutes, but a brace of O’Brien points opened a two-point gap, before Scully’s sixth score cut the gap to the minimum at the interval.
Laois took the lead inside 40 seconds of the restart, thanks to quick-fire scores from Dwyer and Scully - one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Eoin Price cut the gap to the minimum, but Westmeath struggled in front of the posts, with 17 minutes separating their 14th and 15th points - both from free-taker Brendan Murtagh.
Laois were impressive with Dwyer and Scully continuing to tag on scores, with Enda Rowland and Willie Dunphy also on target.
O’Brien cut the gap to four points with 90 seconds of normal time remaining, but Laois kicked on with three unanswered scores from Scully, Zane Keenan and Mark Kavanagh on the way to a seven-point win.
Division 3A champions Roscommon proved their worth as they dug deep to earn Division 2B status for 2017, with a 3-13 to 4-9 win over Donegal at James Stephens Park, Ballina.
A 73rd minute point from Ronan O’Mara earned promotion for the Shannonsiders, in a contest which saw the sides level on four occasions, including twice late on.
Roscommon led by 1-6 to 0-5 at half-time, with Adrian Murphy (3-1) netting their opening goal after 19 minutes.
Murphy completed his sides hat-trick inside four minutes of the restart, as Roscommon pushed 3-6 to 0-5 clear.
Both sides were goal hungry in the closing 35 minutes, with Donegal firing four second half goals.
The Ulster outfits fourth goal tied the game at 4-7 to 3-10 with seven minutes remaining, but Roscommon dug deep for victory.
Tyrone had to dig deep to maintain their Division 3A status, after a tenacious battle with 3B champions Fermanagh, following a 1-24 to 1-19 win after extra-time at Fr. Tierney Park in Ballyshannon.
Kevin Ryan’s charges worked hard in the second period of extra-time, outscoring their opponents by six points to two during that spell, to claim a hard earned win over their Ulster neighbours.
Scores from Conor Grogan, Damian Casey and Ryan McKernan paved the way for a Tyrone victory.
In normal time, Fermanagh led by 0-8 to 0-6 at half-time, with Tyrone reduced to 14 men at that stage following a red card for Justin Kelly.
The Erne County overturned a 0-4 to 0-3 deficit at the end of the first quarter, after Aidy Kelly put Tyrone ahead.
Tyrone battled back to level the tie inside eight minutes of the restart with three Casey scores.
Fermanagh regrouped with Daniel Teague in stunning form, firing 1-1, and Sean Corrigan adding a point to take a 1-11 to 0-9 lead.
However, Tyrone worked hard late on, with Conor McNally netting a goal, before Casey forced extra-time.
Tyrone edged a 1-18 to 1-17 extra-time interval score-line, thanks to a Grogan point, and kicked on after the restart.