Everybody happy as Midlanders progress
TWO big cheers at the final whistle in Portlaoise yesterday.
The first, from the home fans at Laois' 1-20 to 1-17 win over Westmeath, the result that ensured their place in the Leinster SHC proper.
The second, a minute later from the Westmeath congregation after Carlow's win over Antrim in Dr Cullen Park was announced, the result that ensured their place in the Leinster SHC proper.
Everyone happy, then.
"I'm delighted we got the win," admitted 'Cheddar' Plunkett after his team turned a five-point deficit into a three-point win in the space of 25 second-half minutes.
"That's all we said we would do today; try and get the win and let the other results look after themselves. As it happened, the other results went for us but that doesn't make any odds."
Laois' win pits them against Offaly on June 7, on current form a far more palatable proposition than Westmeath's meeting with Wexford on the same day.
"I said on numerous occasions I didn't mind who we played, whether it was going to be Wexford or whether it was going to be Offaly," Plunkett insisted.
"It didn't make any difference. Those teams are fantastic teams."
We'll need a massive improvement. That performance wouldn't be good enough against Offaly.
"Look, we have a big job ahead of us but we're delighted to be where we are and we'll give it a fair rattle in a fortnight's time."
Westmeath boss Michael Ryan was slightly more sanguine, understandably so given his team's late-first-half and early-second-half dominance but with Cha' Dwyer (1-3) and Zane Keenan (0-10) belatedly calibrating their shooting (Keenan hit seven wides in the first half) Laois were worthy of their win.
"We're disappointed," he reflected. "For a lot of that game, we were playing very, very well. I wouldn't say we were in control of the game but we had a lot of very good performances.
"In fairness to Laois they came strong at the end."
They did. But their task was made easier by the late red cards to Robbie Greville and Shane Power.
Greville, who was sent off by Alan Kelly on a straight red, will miss the Wexford game barring a successful appeal.
"They're a very formidable side," Ryan offered.
"I saw them playing a challenge game against Limerick about 10 days ago.
"They'll be a very difficult team to beat," he concluded, "but we'll be difficult to beat as well."