Laois secured their Division 1 status for 2021 with victory over Carlow in a dramatic dogfight at MW Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday.
Eddie Brennan’s side made hard work and were forced to withstand a Carlow comeback that fell agonisingly short before the brilliant Ross King’s 12th point of the night 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.
“There’s no way that match should have gone ahead," admitted Brennan.
"That pitch was in awful condition. I'd be apologetic to Carlow that we ended up playing the match like that. But it doesn’t hide what went on out there. I think both teams deserve massive, massive credit because that was a battle, an absolute slog. We got out the right side of it, just barely."
Laois settled the quicker of the two, and despite their rising wide tally, led by four points by the 22nd minute. King and his opposing free-taker, Marty Kavanagh, traded early scores before King edged his side ahead.
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 hosts pushed their lead out to five with the final three points of the half for a 0-10 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
Carlow rifled over three in a row right after the restart, two from Kavanagh and an effort 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 equalier in the 68th minute to set up a tense finish, only for King’s final free of the night to edge the home side back ahead entering injury-time. Kavanagh had one last chance from range, but his effort tailed wide.
Scorers for Laois: R King (0-12, 9 frees), W Dunphy, A Dunphy and C McEvoy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Carlow: M Kavanagh (0-11, 8 frees), Chris Nolan (0-2), John Nolan (0-1).
LAOIS: 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.
Subs: C Taylor for A Dunphy (56), R Broderick for Kelly (59), C Comerford for Fennell (65).
CARLOW: D Jordan; M Doyle, P Doyle, R Smithers; A Corcoran, D English, G Bennett; A Amond, K McDonald; D Byrne, JM Nolan, J Kavanagh; T Joyce, M Kavanagh, P Coady.
Subs: 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).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)