Limerick 3-15 Laois 1-13, Nenagh
Limerick won handily in the end - 3-15 to 1-13 - to preserve their NHL Division One status but only after Division Two champions Laois put up a brave fight in tonight's relegation play-off in Nenagh.
In front by three points at the interval, only two separated the sides early in the second half but Limerick decisively finished the stronger.
Andrew O'Shaughnessy was the chief Limerick scorer with a tally of 2-8, made up of goals from a penalty and open play, six points from frees, a single '65' and a point from play.
James Young contributed twelve of the Laois points but also missed five first half chances from frees.
Having won the toss, Laois opted to play with the aid of the strong breeze. And they made a wise decision with free-taker Young contributing eight of their nine first half points. He scored four from frees, three from play and one majestic sideline cut.
But it was a half dominated by the Shannonsiders who led 2-6 to 0-9 at the interval. It might have been different had Laois been more accurate as they hit as many wides- five of them by Young - as scores in the half compared to only two wides from Limerick.
Limerick's first goal came after seven minutes. Brian Geary cleared out of defence and the razor-sharp O'Shaughnessy made a great one-handed catch. He swept past his marker, rounded two others, and slammed the ball past Paddy Mullaney to push Limerick 1-2 to 0-1 in front.
A huge mix-up in the Laois defence allowed Limerick grab their second goal after 20 minutes. Sean O'Connor set up the chance for Ollie Moran who cracked home from a few yards out. Apart from the efforts by Young, the only other score for Laois came from Joe Fitzpatrick.
O'Shaughnessy had 1-4 for Limerick, all the points coming from frees with Sean O'Connor and Barry Foley also raising white flags.
Laois would have been more than three points in arrears at the break but for two superb saves by goalkeeper Paddy Mullaney, whereas Limerick stopper Brian Murray had a very quiet opening period.
Laois had a lucky escape when a Limerick shot came back off the upright and a point by Young, from a free, left only two points between them after nine minutes of the second half.
Limerick introduced Pat Tobin and Brian Begley and with his first touch Tobin had a point and from there on, Limerick seemed comfortable.
Still, it was never the expected stroll in the park for Richie Bennis' side as Laois battled bravely and were rewarded with a last-second goal by substitute James Walsh, who followed in after a penalty from Young had been batted away by Murray.
LIMERICK: B Murray; M O'Brien, S Lucey, M O'Riordan; P Lawlor, B Geary, M Foley; N Moran (0-1), D O'Grady (0-1); D Ryan (0-1), O Moran (1-0), M O'Brien; A O'Shaughnessy (2-8), S O'Connor (0-2), B Foley (0-1).
Subs used: P Tobin (0-1) for B Foley (46 mins), B Begley for O'Brien (47), K O'Rourke for Lucey (70).
LAOIS: P Mullaney; C Healy, D Rooney, C Fitzpatrick; M McEvoy, M Whelan, C Dunne; J Fitzpatrick (0-1), S Dollard; W Hyland, J Young (0-12), J Brophy; Joe Phelan, T Fitzgerald, Jason Phelan.
Subs used: P Russell for Brophy (56 mins), J Walsh (1-0) for Dollard, E Jackman for Jason Phelan (both 70).
Referee: Ray Holohan (Kildare)