Carlow 1-14 Laois 1-17
Laois withstood a spirited Carlow fightback to keep their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the Leinster SHC alive.
‘Cheddar’ Plunkett’s men looked home and hosed as they led by 11 points mid-way through the second half.
They seemed to take their foot off the throttle however and with Carlow upping their tempo at the same time, the margin began to reduce gradually.
Martin Kavanagh slotted a couple of frees, while Diarmuid Byrne, Seán Murphy, Jack Kavanagh and excellent centre-back David English also registered white flags as the gap became a more manageable six points.
When Edward Byrne capitalised on a loose clearance in the 69th minute to win a race to the sliotar with Laois goalkeeper Eoin Rowland and register a goal, it was all to play for.
And Carlow almost snatched a draw, when Martin Kavanagh’s delivery from a 65m free was flicked on but straight into the grateful hand of Rowland - who cleared in the game’s final act.
The second half was in complete contrast to a turgid opening period, with the players struggling to cope with the blustery conditions.
The first real glimpse of quality came in the 21st minute from Stephen Maher, who was making his first appearance since breaking his collarbone in the League against Waterford last February.
The Clough Ballacolla midfielder showed a good injection of pace to round his man and loft over from tight on the right sideline.
Martin Kavanagh was keeping Carlow’s noses in front from placed balls and the teams were level four times before Laois got ahead for the first time via a Zane Keenan free.
Keenan finished the first half with five points to give Laois a 0-7 to 0-5 interval lead and ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett’s crew would have been further ahead but for some indiscriminate shooting, as they clocked up nine wides in that opening period.
Plunkett introduced Ben Conroy at the break and the Slieve Bloom youngster worked the oracle, scoring a goal and three points in 18 minutes to apparently help put the game to bed.
He showed good alertness to knock home the rebound after Kevin Kehoe saved Keenan’s attempt at goal from a free in the 40th minute and was only denied a second major by Kehoe’s bravery.
Keenan continued to find the target from placed balls, while Cha Dwyer added a brace to open up a significant gap but in the end Laois just about hung on.
Scorers – Laois: Z Keenan 0-10(9fs); B Conroy 1-3; C Dwyer 0-2; PJ Scully, S Maher 0-1 each.
Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-7(fs); E Byrne 1-1; D Byrne, D English (1f) 0-2 each; J Kavanagh, JM Nolan 0-1 each.
Laois: E Rowland, JA Delaney, C Healy, B Stapleton, J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, J Campion, S Maher, P Purcell, C Dwyer, Z Keenan, W Hyland, PJ Scully, T Fitzgerald, R King.
Subs: B Conroy for Scully (ht), P Whelan for Maher (63).
Carlow: K Kehoe, A Corcoran, J Rogers, S Kavanagh, R Coady, D English, E Coady, D Byrne, C Wall, J Kavanagh, E Byrne, JM Nolan, M Kavanagh, Séamus Murphy, Seán Murphy. Subs: P Coady for Séamus Murphy (40), M Brennan for Wall (50), G Coady for J Kavanagh (64).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).