The reward is a home semi-final against Galway in two weeks, but they will need to be much better than they were on this occasion to avoid a long afternoon. Laois manager Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett acknowledged that fact, but immediately issued a rallying cry.
“You’ve got to put this into context of where we are and who we’re going to play next,” said Plunkett.
“Galway beat the best team that a lot of us have ever seen and drew with them and had a great chance to beat them the third time [they met].
“Having said that, we will meet this challenge. We will not fear anybody here. We will attack Galway and we will be going for a win. I just thought we found it difficult [today]. I was happy with the win but maybe not the performance. We knew that beforehand, that Carlow would play to a system that’s difficult to break down.
“They put a lot of men in to challenge the ball. We thought in the first half we just weren’t working hard enough, and in the second half we set our stall out a bit better and I think we drove on a bit better at that stage.”
So much of what Carlow did was good and they were unlucky to be three points down at half time (1-7 to 0-7), with Laois keeper Eoin Reilly making two smart saves from Craig Doyle and Leaving Cert student Marty Kavanagh.
They had Shane Kavanagh, Jack Kavanagh and Paul Coady sent off in the last four minutes though, and John Meyler was not happy with that.
“We’ve had a man sent off I’d say in every game and there’s no way we would have said ‘go out and start flaking, using hurleys’,” said the Carlow manager.
“To have three sent off is beyond me. I’m really disappointed in that sense. I’ve never been involved in a team that would have had three players sent off. In any game. There wasn’t even a dirty stroke in the game.”
All their first-half scores came from play, whereas Laois only managed 1-1. Willie Hyland’s goal — after excellent defensive work by Brian Stapleton — was important and Laois finished with three quick points.
Critically, they started the second with seven and there was no coming back from that. That made it 1-14 to 0-7 before Kavanagh finally ended Carlow’s drought from a 44th-minute free.
That was the start of a four-point run for Meyler’s charges, but Joe Fitzpatrick and Healy fired over before Zane Keenan drove a 20m free emphatically to the Carlow net to remove all doubt.
The sendings off marred a game that had been played in a good spirit, the Kavanaghs getting their marching orders after a melee in front of the open terrace, before Coady was dismissed following an off-the-ball incident.
Scorers for Laois: S Maher 0-9 (7f), W Hyland 1-1, Z Keenan 1-0 (1f), C Healy, M Whelan (2f), J Fitzpatrick 0-2 each, T Fitzgerald, B Duggan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-4 (3f), E Coady 0-3, D English (2f), HP O’Byrne 0-2 each, JM Nolan, S Murphy 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Reilly; B Stapleton, B Fitzpatrick, B Campion, JA Delaney; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, G Burke; C Healy, J Walsh; S Maher, Z Keenan, B Dunne; T Fitzgerald, N Foyle, W Hyland.
Subs: D Maher for Campion inj (9); J Brophy for Dunne (42); B Duggan for Foyle (55).
CARLOW: F Foley; D English, E Nolan, D Shaw; HP O’Byrne, A Corcoran, D Byrne; R Coady, J Kavanagh; E Coady, S Kavanagh, S Murphy; C Doyle, M Kavanagh, JM Nolan.
Subs: M Brennan for Murphy (47); P Coady for D Byrne (47); P Shaw for Nolan (51); D Roberts for Doyle (67); C McCabe for D Shaw (68).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).