The hosts were lethargic throughout and had a 20-minute cameo from substitute, Michael John Tierney to thank for edging the victory over a gutsy Carlow outfit.
“We won ugly,” admitted McNulty. “Coming into the game, if you’d have asked us would we take that, we’d have taken your arm right off you. Obviously, (we’re) not happy, not happy at all with the performance. How could we be? But to win under those circumstances in a derby game, you’d have to take it.
“You have to take your hat off to Carlow as well. They fought for everything. They gave us a good game. Remember also, they were a team that Meath took two games to overcome so they were a team we certainly couldn’t take for granted. I’ll re-emphasise, it was a derby game and in derby games, anything can happen. But there’s no way that (display) would be good enough for the next round of the qualifiers but it was good enough for tonight.”
Luke Dempsey revealed his players were “bitterly disappointed,” having led at the 45th minute thanks to Brian Murphy’s excellent point but they failed to score again as Laois ran up five successive scores, including three from Tierney. The Carlow boss felt there was a reason for that though, and for the fact that only one of his side’s six first half points came from play. When the topic came up for discussion, he was highly critical of what he perceived to be referee Syl Doyle’s leniency when it came to the negative tactics of the Laois players.
“I can’t understand how they didn’t get men sent off for the constant fouling, pulling, dragging (and) hits that were unfair. It was constant.
“And that’s how most of our scores came from frees because they were just persistently fouling, blatant fouls, and in late (after the ball).
“So I wouldn’t be pleased with the whole refereeing aspect of that game the way that went on.”
He paid tribute to Tierney’s match-winning performance however, and the Parnells clubman certainly made a significant impact when coming off the bench in the 50th minute.
His first contribution was to land a free soon after his introduction, while his splendid conversion of a 40m effort from out on the right wing just over six minutes from time put two points between the sides for the first time in the second half. He then followed up by drilling over very well from play with the outside of that left boot.
With the outstanding John O’Loughlin and David Conway (free) pointing at either end of Tierney’s flurry, Laois managed to turn a single-point deficit into a workmanlike victory.
O’Loughlin goaled for the home side in the 13th minute, after good work from Colm Kelly and Damien O’Connor but Carlow scored four of the next six points, three of them from Murphy. He had to leave the fray in the second half, having lost the feeling in his arm and the loss was keenly felt.
Carlow began to miss some very good chances, with JJ Smith and the otherwise highly-influential Sean Gannon amongst the guilty parties.
After Murphy showed some neat footwork to point, after Daniel St Ledger had fielded spectacularly, Carlow appeared to run out of steam and Laois capitalised on the gaps that began to open up to scramble their way to the next round.
Scorers for Laois: J O’Loughlin 1-1; MJ Tierney 0-3(fs); C Kelly 0-2(1f); D O’Connor, R Munnelly (f), B Quigley, D Conway(f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: Brian Murphy 0-5(3fs); JJ Smith (fs), D St Ledger (1f) 0-2 each
LAOIS: E Culliton; C Healy, K Lillis, J Kavanagh; D Strong, C Begley, C Boyle; K Meaney, B Quigley; D O’Connor, J O’Loughlin, G Walsh; R Munnelly, P Clancy, C Kelly.
Subs: D Conway for Walsh (29); P Cahillane for Strong (43); MJ Tierney for Kelly (50).
CARLOW: T O’Reilly; P Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; K Nolan, B Lambe, T Bolger; Brendan Murphy, D Foley; Brian Murphy, P Reid, E Ruth; JJ Smith, S Gannon, D St Ledger.
Subs: P McElligott for P Murphy blood (48-54); D Hayden for Reid (57); K Jackson for Brian Murphy (62); McElligott for Bolger (70+2).
Referee: S Doyle (Wexford).