Laois are through to the final of the Joe McDonagh Cup after comfortably overcoming Kerry this afternoon.
Ahead by six at the break, two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second period took Laois out of sight of their hosts and with Westmeath overcoming Antrim in the day’s other Joe McDonagh Cup fixture, Laois’ third win of the campaign was sufficient to book them a final berth with one round to go.
For Kerry, the outlook is far more bleak. Offaly are the visitors to Tralee next Saturday, today’s result meaning that game has now become a straight relegation fixture. Whoever wins survives in the Joe McDonagh Cup for another year. It should be noted, however, that a draw would be sufficient for Kerry, whereas the Faithful County, without a win thus far, must claim the two points on offer.
Jack Goulding and Podge Boyle had cut the gap to four early in the second-half (3-11 to 1-13), but Kerry’s momentum was clipped by a Charles Dwyer goal. Shane Conway converted a pair of 65s to wipe out most of the damage done by Laois' fourth goal, but a fifth major, finished by Paddy Purcell on the three-quarter hour mark, effectively ended this game as a contest.
Holding an advantage of nine points, Laois were never going to be caught. Kerry searched in vein for goals in the closing 20 minutes, but could muster little more than a flurry of Shane Conway dead-ball efforts.
Irrespective of how Laois fare in the Joe McDonagh Cup final, they can look forward to an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final fixture later in the summer.
The winners had the backing of the wind in the opening half and led 3-11 to 1-11 at the break. Their opening two goals arrived within 60 seconds of each other in the seventh minute. Aaron Dunphy supplied the first, Ross King delivering the second after being set up by Cha Dwyer.
Those two green flags sent the visitors into a 2-2 to 0-3 lead and they followed this brace with three unanswered points from Stephen Maher (two frees) and Ross King. In total, Eddie Brennan’s charges amassed 2-4 during this period of supremacy to lead by 2-5 to 0-3 after 13 minutes.
Kerry’s response was a fine Podge Boyle goal and a well-taken Daniel Collins point following Michael Boyle’s crossfield pass. The home side succeeded in paring the margin back to three, 2-6 to 1-6, by the 22nd minute, but a second Laois burst yielded 1-4 on the bounce - the goal finished by Willie Dunphy - to put 10 between them.
The Kingdom, to their credit, finished the half the stronger, with Podge Boyle throwing over three from play, and along with two Conway frees, the deficit was back to six. It did narrow to four upon the resumption but no closer would Kerry come and they will welcome Offaly to Tralee next Saturday knowing that whoever comes off second best will spend 2020 in hurling’s third tier.
S Conway (0-10, 0-6 frees, 0-3 65s); P Boyle (1-5), M Leary (0-2); J O’Connor, D Collins, J Goulding, M Boyle (0-1 each).
A Dunphy, C Dwyer (1-3 each); S Maher (0-6, 0-5 frees); N Foyle (1-2); R King (1-1); P Purcell (1-0); J Kelly, W Dunphy (0-1 each).
JB O’Halloran; S Weir, B Murphy, J O’Connor; E Murphy, M Boyle, D Collins; D Goggin, T O’Connor; M O’Leary, J Goulding, P Kelly; S Conway, P Boyle, C Harty.
J Buckley for Murphy (28); J Conway for Goggin (44); M Slattery for Harty (50).
E Rowland; M Whelan, J Phelan, D Hartnett; J Kelly, R Mullaney, P Delaney; J Lennon, P Purcell; A Dunphy, N Foyle, S Maher; W Dunphy, C Dwyer, R King.
S Bergin for R King (49); L Cleere for Phelan (52); C Phelan for N Foyle (60); E Kileen for Kelly (66); L Burke for Delaney (70).
J Murphy (Limerick).