Laois ensured that their name will be in the hat for tomorrow morning’s All-Ireland SHC qualifier round 1 draw – as Neil Foyle fired over a dramatic winning point to floor Carlow in the third minute of stoppage time, writes Jackie Cahill at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Laois, who played with 14 men from the 13th minute, after captain Ross King was sent off for an off-the-ball incident with Richard Coady, were a point down when James Doyle slotted over a Carlow point in the first minute of added time.
But after goalkeeper Enda Rowland nailed a monster free, Foyle landed the winner to ensure progress for Laois at the expense of the Christy Ring winners.
Victory came at a cost for Laois, who are already ravaged by injuries, as Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher went off with a knee problem in the second half.
Carlow also lost their captain, Martin Kavanagh, to a second bookable offence with ten minutes remaining.
And on the pitch after the game, there was concern for wing-back Richard Kelly, who was removed by ambulance with a back injury.
In a stunning finish, the pendulum swung back and forth before Foyle’s late, late intervention.
Laois will join Munster sides Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick on one side of the qualifier draw, but can only draw Kilkenny, Offaly or Dublin, as they’ve already met Westmeath in the Leinster round-robin series.
This victory for Laois narrows the odds on Kilkenny drawing a fellow big gun – Waterford or Tipperary – tomorrow morning.
Laois battled through, despite registering 15 wides, and remain in the championship after bouncing back from their Leinster quarter-final loss to Wexford.
Carlow led by 1-8 to 0-9 at the end of an entertaining, if error-strewn, first half.
Both sides were guilty of some poor wides, Laois with seven and five for Carlow, although the visitors argued vehemently that Diarmuid Byrne’s effort, waved off-target in the tenth minute, was good.
Carlow were 0-2 to 0-1 clear before King’s dismissal and in the 16th minute, Colm Bonnar’s charges struck for goal.
Poor defensive work allowed the ball through to James Doyle but his reverse pass to Kavanagh was superb, as the captain then controlled on his stick, turned and slotted home a picture-book goal in one, fluent movement.
A Paul Coady point then stretched Carlow’s lead to five points – 1-3 to 0-1 – before Laois hit four on the spin to work their way right back into contention.
It was very much tit-for-tat for a spell after that but Carlow, playing with the breeze in the opening half, pushed the lead back out to three again, with points from Byrne and Kavanagh.
The returning Cahir Healy’s second point reduced the Laois deficit to two points and while John Michael Nolan, with some excellent work, moved Carlow three ahead once more, lively Laois midfielder Patrick Purcell kept them in touch with the final score of the half.
Carlow had worked a decent platform for themselves, and with the extra man, but they also had goalkeeper Brian Tracey to thank for a couple of excellent saves in that first half.
A late call-up in place of James Carroll, Tracey kept out Neil Foyle with an excellent early save and later in the half, the Naomh Eoin net-minder swatted away Purcell’s fierce drive.
Early in the second half, Kavanagh was denied by a smart Rowland save but Carlow looked good before being rocked on their heels by two Laois goals.
Sean Downey bounded all the way through the Carlow defence before whipping home a 47th-minute goal after losing control of the sliotar, and that score levelled matters at 1-10 apiece.
Ten minutes later, Foyle netted after brilliantly fetching Jack Kelly’s long delivery and Laois were now 2-12 to 1-12 clear.
But back came Carlow with four unanswered points down the home straight to lead by one, before that late Laois double edged them over the line.
Scorers for Laois – S Downey & N Foyle 1-1 each, S Maher 0-3 (2f), E Rowland (2f), P Purcell & C Healy 0-2 each, R King (f), Mark Kavanagh & C Taylor 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow – Martin Kavanagh 1-2, C Nolan 0-4 (2f), P Coady 0-3 (1f), D Murphy (2f) & D Byrne 0-2 each, J.M. Nolan, J Doyle & E Byrne 0-1 each.
Laois – E Rowland; D Palmer, L Bergin, L Cleere; E Killeen, M Whelan, C Collier; J Kelly, P Purcell; S Downey, C Healy, R King; Mark Kavanagh, N Foyle, S Maher.
Subs – D Hartnett for Palmer (h.t.), A Dunphy for Kavanagh (43), C Taylor for Maher (inj., 52), A Corby for Collier (61), S Bergin for Downey (68).
Carlow – B Tracey, A Corcoran, P Doyle, G Bennett; R Coady, D English, R Kelly; J Murphy, D Byrne; J.M. Nolan, P Coady, E Byrne; D Murphy, J Doyle, Martin Kavanagh.
Subs – D Wall for P Doyle (inj., 28), C Nolan for D Murphy (41), J Kavanagh for J Murphy (58), K McDonald for P Coady (65).
Referee – D Kirwan (Cork)