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Saturday 3 December 2016

Laois hold their nerve to earn local bragging rights

Edward Coady, Carlow, in action against Ben Conroy
Edward Coady, Carlow, in action against Ben Conroy

A Laois purple patch just after half-time, which produced an unanswered 1-3, proved crucial as the visitors saw off Carlow's challenge with a 1-17 to 1-14 win at Netwatch Cullen Park yesterday.

Half-time substitute Ben Conroy did most of the damage in that period for the O'Moore County, hitting 1-2 from play as Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett's side stretched out to an eight-point advantage, having held a 0-7 to 0-5 lead at the break.

The game witnessed a strong Carlow finish, which saw them reduce the Laois lead to three points when centre-forward Eddie Byrne kicked the sliotar into the net.

But while Carlow did have one last injury-time chance, when Marty Kavanagh's long-range free was deflected goalwards, the effort was saved confidently by Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland.

The opening half was dominated by the respective free-takers, Zane Keenan, the Laois midfielder who scored 0-10 in the game, 0-9 from frees, and Carlow's Kavanagh (0-6f).

Both defences were generally on top and there was a serious lack of scoring power in both full-forward lines, with Seán Murphy's point on the hour mark for Carlow being the only score from play by either starting inside-forward lines.

The Laois goal, four minutes after the restart, was the real game-changer. Keenan's low-trajectory free caused confusion in the home defence and Conroy to scrambled the ball into the net.

Laois, buoyed by those early second-half scores, dominated most of the half, leading by 1-15 to 0-7 after 54 minutes.

But Carlow showed courage in the final minutes, trimming the lead back to six points before Byrne's goal gave the home support hope that they could pull a draw out of the game.

But Laois held their nerve to claim the bragging rights and will now face Westmeath, who have full points from two games. Carlow will entertain Antrim in their final round-robin game in one they have to win if they are to entertain hopes of a possible three-way play-off for the second qualifying spot and a meeting with Wexford.

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