The Laois hurlers ensured their Division 1 status for another year with a slender one-point win over neighbours Carlow in a real dogfight at MW Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday night.
Eddie Brennan’s side made hard work of it at times, particularly in the closing half, as they were forced to withstand a Carlow comeback that fell agonisingly short. John Nolan sent over the equaliser for Carlow two minutes from the end and while Marty Kavanagh had one last chance to snatch a draw in the final minute of injury-time, Ross King’s twelfth point of the contest on the stroke of 70 minutes ultimately proved the difference.
It was a gritty display from both sides in awful underfoot conditions, an overworked and heavy playing surface in Portlaoise showing all the signs of a pitch that hosted its fourth game in seven days.
Laois settled the quicker of the two sides and despite their rising wide tally, they led by four points by the 22nd minute. King and his opposing free-taker, Marty Kavanagh, traded early scores before King added two more.
Spectators had to wait until the 21st minute for the first score from play, clubmates James Ryan and King combined for the latter’s fourth and Willie Dunphy’s effort from the right sideline made it 0-5 to 0-1.
Carlow cut it back with four Kavanagh frees either side of a King brace, but the home side pushed their lead out to five with the final three points of the half going their way to leave the scoreboard reading 0-10 to 0-5 at the interval.
Carlow rifled over the three in a row right after the restart, two from Kavanagh and a single from sub Chris Nolan. Laois settled with points from King and wing-back Ciaran McEvoy, but Carlow would register four of the next five - all from Kavanagh - to make it a one-point game with ten minutes left to play.
John Nolan sent over the equalising point for Carlow in the 68th minute to set up a tense finish, only for Ross King’s final free of the night to edge the home side back ahead entering injury-time. Kavanagh had one final chance from range, but his effort tailed off and Laois held on.
R King (0-12, 9 frees), W Dunphy, A Dunphy and C McEvoy (0-1 each).
M Kavanagh (0-11, 8 frees), Chris Nolan (0-2), John Nolan (0-1).
E Rowland; L Senior, M Whelan, D Hartnett; P Delaney, J Kelly, C McEvoy; J Lennon, Fiachra C Fennell; W Dunphy, J Ryan, P Purcell; R King, A Dunphy, E Gaughan.
C Taylor for A Dunphy (56), R Broderick for Kelly (59), C Comerford for Fennell (65).
D Jordan; A Corcoran, P Doyle, M Doyle; R Smithers, D English, D Byrne; J Kavanagh, A Amond; JM Nolan, P Coady, K McDonald; M Kavanagh, T Joyce, G Bennett.
C Nolan for Coady (HT), J Nolan for Amond (55), S Whelan for Joyce (56), E Byrne for D Byrne (63), M Malone for JM Nolan (66).
Cathal McAllister (Cork)