It was a case of job done for Henry Shefflin and the Galway hurlers in O’Moore Park on Saturday evening as they had 22 points to spare over Laois to guarantee their place in the All Ireland series.
With seven points from their four games, Galway are assured of a top three finish though need a draw at home to Dublin next Saturday to book their Leinster final place.
Fourteen Galway players registered scores, including goalkeeper Eanna Murphy who pointed from play in the second half, as they pulled well clear of a brave Laois challenge after the break.
While there was only six points between the sides at the break, second-half goals from Conor Whelan and Joseph Cooney put real daylight between the sides.
“It was about getting the two points and getting us seven on the table for the Leinster championship,” said Shefflin to the assembled media after the game.
“That was the objective today. The first half we started very well (when they raced into a 0-9 to 0-1 lead after nine minutes) but I thought Laois were very impressive thereafter. Enda Rowland was controlling the game with his puckouts…he was pinging puckouts short and long and they were hurting us.”
With Paddy Purcell and Cha Dwyer very impressive with three early points each from play, Laois had the gap back to three late in the half though Galway got the last couple of scores before half time to lead 0-18 to 0-12.
“They got back into the game, hurled really well and got some brilliant scores and it was a bit of a concern but I thought our lads responded really well before half time.
“We were six points up in a Leinster championship match and we probably would have taken that. We knew if we got a handle on the puckouts and the restarts and we got the couple of goals to give us a bit of cushion.”
Galway hit five quick points at the start of the second half to put daylight between the sides and Whelan’s goal in the 50th minute and Cooney’s ten minutes later turned the game into a rout, having been a decent contest up to then.
For Galway, a win over Dublin next Saturday in Pearse Stadium will send them into a Leinster final, but given their patchy record in the fixture, Shefflin will be treading carefully.
A massive loss in the Walsh Cup earlier this year is also clearly on his mind.
“I’m expecting a serious challenge. We played them four months ago - 16th of January and we lost by 19 points.
“I suppose the Galway people know the challenge ahead of us. They know the record the last couple of years hasn’t been great.
“We’re going to be in the All Ireland series now whatever way it transpires.”
After a third loss in a row of 20+ points Laois now turn their attention to a relegation shootout next week against a Westmeath side that drew with Wexford on Saturday.
Laois need to win as a draw or loss will send them down to the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2023.
First-half injuries to Dwyer and Mark Dowling put them on an injury list that already includes Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher, Willie Dunphy, Diarmuid Conway and joint captains Podge Delaney and John Lennon.
"Clearly our focus even prior to this game was on next week," said manager Cheddar Plunkett afterwards.
"We wanted that competitiveness to build on next week and we got that.
"I'm really focused on next week. The winners are going to stay in the Leinster championship, the losers are out of it, that's how important it is."
C Cooney 0-8 (5 f), C Mannion 0-7, T Monaghan 0-6, J Cooney 1-2, C Whelan 1-2, D Morrissey 0-2, P Mannion 0-2, C Fahy 0-2, B Concannon 0-1, J Grealish 0-1, F Burke 0-1, E Murphy 0-1, E Niland 0-1 (f), J Flynn 0-1.
R King 0-6 (5f), P Purcell 0-3, C Dwyer 0-3, J Keyes 0-3, PJ Scully 0-2, E Rowland 0-1 (f), J Kelly 0-1, S Downey 0-1, T Keyes 0-1
E Murphy; J Grealish, Daithi Burke, P Mannion; D Morrissey, G McInerney, F Burke; C Mannion, David Burke; J Cooney, C Cooney, T Monaghan; C Fahy, C Whelan, B Concannon.
R Glennon for David Burke (51), TJ Brennan for Daithi Burke (57), E Niland for J Cooney (58), J Coen for Morrissey (64), J Flynn for Whelan (65)
E Rowland (0-1, f); P Dunne, S Downey (0-1), D Hartnett; R Mullaney, C McEvoy, J Kelly (0-2); A Corby, P Purcell (0-3); F C Fennell, J Keyes (0-3), C Dwyer (0-3); B Conroy, R King (0-6, 5f), M Dowling.
PJ Scully (0-2) for Dowling (injured - 17), C Byrne for Dwyer (injured - 33), E Killeen for Mullaney (54), T Keyes (0-1) for Conroy (58), F Flanagan for McEvoy (69)
S Cleere (Kilkenny)