Limerick 0-20 Laois 1-14
Limerick needed a strong finish to end Laois’ brave fight in the first of the All-Ireland SHC third phase qualifiers at Semple Stadium this evening.
Laois inspired hopes of a stunning upset, scoring 1-05 in the opening six minutes with Eoin Costelloe the goalscorer.
McNamara, Andrew O’Shaughnessy and Paul Browne closed the gap to 1-09 to 0-09 for Limerick by half-time.
Laois still led by two with 16 minutes left but O’Shaughnessy, Donie Ryan and David Breen claimed the crucial points to set up a quarter-final clash against Dublin.
Conquerors of Wexford last weekend, Limerick had to use their get-out-of-jail card as late points from substitutes Ryan and Breen saw them deny Laois a famous win.
Niall Rigney’s charges held the lead for 59 minutes, until Limerick’s late comeback.
Laois looked odds on for their first ever Championship win over Limerick, but Justin McCarthy’s side dug deep to ensure their quarter-final place.
Although playing against a stiff breeze in the opening half, it was Laois who showed the greater spirit and determination.
As Laois raced clear on the scoreboard, James Walsh and Colin Delaney dominated the midfielder sector for them.
Willie Hyland settled Laois with the first of his eight points arriving after just 30 seconds.
The Clough-Ballacolla clubman was a constant threat to the Limerick rearguard and added two further points inside the opening six minutes – Laois leading by 1-05 to 0-00 at that stage.
Tommy Fitzgerald also added early points, while Costelloe bagged the only goal of the contest in the fourth minute.
The Portlaoise clubman had his initial shot blocked, but seized the second chance and had no hesitation in planting the ball past Limerick goalkeeper Brian Murray.
A brace of Hyland points made it an eight-point lead for Laois, but Limerick suddenly got motoring with four points in succession – Paudie McNamara, Andrew O’Shaughnessey, Paul Browne and Gavin O’Mahony were all on target.
An Eamon Jackman point made it 1-06 to 0-04 at the end of the opening quarter, with the sides well-matched from there until the half-time whistle.
O’Mahony and McNamara were keeping Limerick in touch as the midfield breaks now seemed to be going their way.
Laois opened up a 1-09 to 0-07 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half, following Hyland’s third point.
However, Limerick tellingly closed the gap to three before the interval with McNamara, O’Shaughnessy and Browne picking off a succession of points.
Laois started the second half brightly with points from Costelloe and Hyland, but Limerick quickly responded through O’Shaughnessy and Browne.
Limerick cut the gap to a point with 20 minutes remaining and although Hyland fired over the next point for Laois, Limerick hit four unanswered points to take a 0-18 to 1-13 lead with four minutes remaining.
Laois bravely battled on. Hyland bagged his eighth point, but with the scores drying up for the visitors and Limerick’s experience and greater hunger shining through in the end, the Shannonsiders progressed through to meet the Dubs in the next round.
LIMERICK: B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, T Condon; S Hickey, B Geary, M Foley; G O’Mahony (0-03), D O’Grady; J Ryan (0-01), M O’Brien, P Browne (0-03); D Sheehan (0-01), P McNamara (0-02), A O’Shaughnessy (0-06, 0-03f).
Subs used: D Moloney for Condon (29 mins), J O’Brien (0-02) for M O’Brien (49), D Breen (0-01) for Sheehan (53), D Ryan (0-01) for Browne (68).
LAOIS: T Doran; JA Delaney, D Maher, B Stapleton; J Rowney, B Campion, M McEvoy; C Delaney, James Walsh; E Jackman (0-01), W Hyland (0-08, 0-06f), O Holohan; T Fitzgerald (0-01), J Brophy (0-02), E Costelloe (1-02).
Subs used: J Young for Holohan (51 mins), B Dunne for Rowney (61), D Peacock for Costelloe (68).
Referee: Cathal McAlister (Cork)