Laois 0-12 Carlow 0-8
Turlough O’Brien acknowledged that it wasn’t one for the purists but it was the defeat rather than the quality of the game which would have disappointed the Carlow manager.
While he was right to bemoan the missed goal opportunities by Diarmuid Walshe and Shane Redmond, his body language suggested that he knew the better team had won on the day. Also, there is the knowledge it has already been an unforgettable year and it is not over yet.
Laois started at a very low ebb when Kerry’s John Sugrue took over but even if much of their winning run comes from Division 4, the confidence that has been bolstered as they secured promotion as champions was evident here.
The fact that they had already dealt successfully with Carlow’s style of play twice in the National League was helpful too and while they never looked like raising a green flag themselves, they showed plenty of patience to book a Leinster final berth for the first time since 2007.
Their ability to match Carlow physically under the high ball was significant too, while Niall Donoher and Colm Begley were among those to swoop on the breaks.
“You’ve got to set up your own terms,” said Sugrue when asked about dealing with Carlow.
“You can’t just want to charge straight through them and do as you please. You have to be happy to do what works, so that’s our attitude for each game and our mentality.
“It is attritional in the middle third. There has to be a very high workrate. That is the way the game has gone. They are the fellows who are really hurting hard outside and the inside backs have to be precise in what they are doing.
Carlow have come a long way in the past two years but they were poor in attack again, just as was the case in the League final. This, after shooting the lights out against Kildare in Tullamore.
“I think it’s a learning thing for them and the decision-making of when to shoot and not to shoot,” said O’Brien.
“We might have panicked, we might have chased the game a little too much at the end but these things happen. You’re learning as you’re losing so hopefully we’ll have learned for the qualifiers and we’ll kick on and have a few more games left in this championship.”
Carlow made sure the result was in doubt until the final whistle but they were always behind from the time Ross Munnelly opened the scoring with a point from a free in the sixth minute.
On occasion, Carlow had a full 15 players in their own half, although usually, it was 14, with Darragh O’Brien or Paul Broderick the sole inhabitant in the Laois half.
They forced a lot of turnovers early on and finished with a total of 14 but Laois were no slouches in this department either, winning possession back on 12 occasions.
Two of those came in the first half when Seán Murphy attempted one of his lung-bursting runs but he was a lone wolf on each occasion and weight of numbers got the better of him. He never had the impact Carlow would have hoped for.
The loss of Seán Gannon to injury at half time was significant but in wing-backs Jordan Morrissey and Ciarán Moran, Carlow had two of the game’s best players.
Morrissey was magnificent, causing problems throughout for Damien O’Connor, who pulled him back twice inside the opening five minutes.
Meanwhile, Mark Timmons somehow escaped a black card when dragging Morrissey to the ground as the Éire Óg man bore down on Graham Brody’s goal.
They were isolated enough incidents of progress up front for Carlow however, as they failed in particular to get Murphy in the right positions often enough.
Laois led at half time by 0-6 to 0-3 at half time and were full value for that, even allowing for Walshe’s lack of composure that butchered a gilt-edged goal chance just before the short whistle.
And though Laois created 17 scoring chance in comparison to Carlow’s 13, it was that they scored eight as against three to their opponents’ that was significant, particularly when Carlow had the better goal chances and got nothing from them.
Laois also shot 11 wides to six for Carlow, confirming the belief that they held the upper hand without managing to pull away.
That kept Carlow alive and the big moment arrived in the 66th-minute, when Moran brilliant broke through and laid off to Darragh Foley. He in turn found Shane Redmond moving forward into the Dublin area.
Had the full-back found the net, the sides would have been level but he wanted just a little bit more time than he had and the opportunity was lost.
Laois went into an early two-point lead thanks to Munnelly — the only survivor from Laois’s last provincial title success in 2003 — and Donie Kingston.
Walshe got Carlow off the mark but the margin was four when Alan Farrell, Finbarr Crowley and Munnelly hit the target but Darragh O’Brien kicked a fantastic score to maintain Carlow’s belief before Walshe wasted that wonderful goal chance.
Carlow raised the tempo after the resumption. Paul Broderick had some poor misses but he did kick two excellent scores to bring Carlow within one. And even though Niall Donoher and Kingston edged Laois further ahead, that missed chance by Redmond was crucial.
Laois did not make one goal opportunity but that wasn’t significant and it was left to Evan O’Carroll, introduced off the bench after a difficult week in which his father Micheál passed way, to kick the final score and confirm his side’s place back in the provincial decider.
Scorers for Laois: D Kingston 0-3(fs); R Munnelly 0-2(fs), C Begley, J O’Loughlin, F Crowley, A Farrell, N Donoher, E O’Carroll, B Glynn 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: P Broderick 0-5(4fs); D Walshe, D Foley (f), D O’Brien 0-1 each.
LAOIS: G Brody, S Attride, M Timmons, G Dillon, T Collins, C Begley, F Crowley, J O’Loughlin, K Lillis, A Farrell, N Donoher, D O’Connor, R Munnelly, D Kingston, P Kingston.
Subs: B Carroll for O’Connor (42), B Glynn for Farrell (46).
CARLOW: R Molloy, C Crowley, S Redmond, C Lawlor, J Morrissey, D St Ledger, C Moran, S Murphy, E Ruth, S Gannon, D Foley, D Walshe, P Broderick, D O’Brien, J Murphy.
Subs: B Kavanagh for Gannon inj (ht).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).
The failure of Diarmuid Walshe to goal just before the half time and Shane Redmond to do likewise in the 66th minute when the teams were separated by just three points proved costly for Carlow.
Laois have beaten Carlow three times now between league and championship. They know how to deal with the suffocating blanket – especially at Croke Park, where they have prevailed twice.
You had to be happy for Evan O’Carroll to come on and score a point in the week in which his father Micheál passed away.
The freetakers. The wind might have been a factor but Paul Broderick, Ross Munnelly and Donie Kingston all missed from dead balls they would have expected to convert.
A very defensive game but Carlow still have work to do in terms of their transition and getting the strike runners like Seán Murphy on the ball further up field. Laois defended in numbers too but they always had an attacking outlet.
Laois captain Stephen Attride suffered a serious looking head injury at the death and had to be stretchered off. Carlow were dealt a significant blow when Sean Gannon failed to reappear after half-time with a shoulder problem.
BEST ON SHOW
Jordan Morrissey was magnificent for Carlow, particularly in the first half. Niall Donoher had a fine game for Laois and weighed in with a peach of a point to steady the ship as Carlow threatened to reel them in.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Fergal Kelly did well but his failure to issue a black card to Mark Timmons when the Laois fullback dragged Jordan Morrissey to the ground with a goal chance on offer was puzzling. Wasn’t that what the black card was brought in for?
It’s the Leinster final for Laois v Dublin on June 24. Carlow will return to a provincial ground for the qualifiers on June 23.
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