Galway 1-22 Laois 0-23
For the second time in 12 months Galway got the fright of their lives in the Leinster SHC as the Tribesmen carved out a two-point win over a determined Laois side in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Laois looked likely winners for large stages of this game, but Galway’s greater experience told as the visitors finished strongly to book a semi-final date against either Kilkenny or Offaly.
Galway trailed by six points with 19 minutes remaining, and although Laois held the lead for most of the remainder of the game, Anthony Cunningham’s side broke ahead in the 67th minute to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Laois made two changes from the side announced midweek, with Joe Campion replacing Patrick Whelan, while James Walsh made his first start in almost a year, as he made a return from a leg injury, replacing John Purcell.
Galway began this game in tremendous fashion, with the Westerners keen to start their 2014 Championship campaign impressively.
Laois founded themselves 1-3 to 0-0 in arrears after nine minutes, with Jonathan Glynn netting the only goal of the opening half in the third minute.
Galway built on this strong start, as they held dominance at midfield early on, and made it count, with points from midfielders Johnny Coen and Padraig Brehony, along with a Daithi Burke score helping to open up a six-point gap.
Despite the visitors' strong start, Laois offered an even more impressive response, with six unanswered scores – all from play, to tie the match after 16 minutes.
Brian Stapleton led from the back to kick-start the hosts' resurgence with a fine score from distance.
Joe Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fitzgerald and Tom Delaney followed with scores to cut the gap to two points in the 13th minute, but Laois continued to press hard.
Fitzgerald registered his second point, while Fitzpatrick was once again on target, as Laois leveled the game for the first time.
Conor Cooney’s opening point was Galway’s first in almost eight minutes, but this was a mere blip in a hugely dominant spell from Laois.
The hosts responded with five unanswered points, including scores from Fitzgerald, Walsh, Joe Campion, Stephen Maher, Cha Dwyer and Neil Foyle.
This ensured a 0-12 to 1-4 score-line after 24 minutes, and while Cooney kept Galway in touch, there was little Laois could do wrong.
Scores from Foyle and Willie Hyland ensured a six-point lead, but the sides were well balanced before the break, equally sharing four points to ensure a 0-16 to 1-07 interval score-line.
Cooney fired his fourth point 40 seconds after the restart to cut the gap, but Laois outscored their opponents by three points to one inside three minutes, with a superb sideline cut from Dwyer.
The Ballinakill clubman was certainly delighted with his efforts, jumping high into the air after the white flag was raised.
0-19 to 1-9 ahead, Laois looked promising, but once again Galway bounced back.
A brace of Cooney points coupled with a Brehony score cut the gap to four points in the 44th minute.
Laois worked hard, and were inspired after a 21-metre Joe Canning goal strike was blocked out.
Stephen Maher and Dwyer helped to extend the Laois lead, but the hosts would go 10 minutes without a score, as Galway worked hard to equalise.
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham needed answers and he needed them quickly as the third quarter came to a close.
The visitors tied the game with 11 minutes remaining after a flurry of scores with substitute Jason Flynn offering the perfect response, as he fired a point inside 40 seconds of his introduction.
This score helped cut the gap to five points, and further points from Cooney, Flynn, Niall Burke and David Collins ensured a 0-21 to 1-18 score after 59 minutes.
Laois took the lead thanks to Hyland’s third point, and second of the half, but Galway never gave up.
Canning tied the game for the second time in the half with a 62nd minute point, but failed to take the lead after the Tribesman skipper shot wide, after winning the resulting puckout.
But Galway came good in the closing stages with substitute Paul Killeen on target to kick-start a run of three unanswered points, with Flynn and Iarla Tannian also on target.
Ross King pegged a point back for Laois in injury-time, but despite Laois pressure late on, the visitors held out for victory.
GALWAY: C Callanan; F Moore, R Burke, D Collins (0-1); A Harte, I Tannian (0-1), Daithi Burke; J Coen (0-1), P Brehony (0-2); David Burke (0-1), C Cooney (0-7, 3f), N Burke (0-2); C Mannion (0-1), J Glynn (1-0), J Canning (0-2). Subs: P Killeen (0-1) for Harte (Blood 6-9); D Hayes for David Burke (47); J Flynn (0-3) for Mannion (51); P Killeen for Harte (64); D Glennon for Glynn (69).
LAOIS: E Reilly; JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton (0-1); J Fitzpatrick (0-2), M Whelan, T Delaney (0-2); J Walsh (0-1), J Campion (0-1); S Maher (0-3, 3f), T Fitzgerald(0-3), D Palmer; N Foyle (0-3), W Hyland (0-3), C Dwyer (0-3, 1sl). Subs: J Purcell for Foyle (56); P Whelan for Walsh (58); J Brophy for Fitzgerald (59); R King (0-1) for J Campion (63).
REFEREE: Cathal McAlister (Cork)