Laois hold out as Lakes run dry
WITH Dublin's giant shadow darkening Leinster for so long, it was tempting to ask one of the chasing pack about the gulf between them and Jim Gavin's history-chasers.
But Laois boss John Sugrue's thoughts were on Meath, their semi-final opponents on Sunday week.
"We have to worry about the gulf between ourselves and Meath first," said Sugrue, who had just witnessed his team grind out a win over Westmeath in O'Connor Park.
Still, their task was made easier than it should have been by a Lake County performance that left them deeply frustrated. They are better than this, but championship days are when teams need to perform on full potential and, unfortunately for Westmeath, they didn't deliver.
The strong, swirling wind posed a big challenge for both teams, but Laois coped better, especially when playing against it in the first half.
They scored four points in that period, whereas Westmeath managed just two, both Ger Egan frees.
In fairness to Laois, they held their nerve as Westmeath turned up the pressure after the interval.
They were still five points ahead at the three-quarter stage before a dramatic momentum shift saw Westmeath out-score them 5-1 over the next 16 minutes.
It left Laois clinging to a one-point lead.
They had chances too but failed to take them and, in a late-late counter-attack, Laois sub Eoin Lowry added a point. Sugrue admitted his side were a touch fortunate:
"Westmeath were probably a little bit unlucky that one or two of their late shots didn't glide over, but we'll take that bit of luck," the Kerry native said.
Westmeath are heading for the last chance saloon of the qualifiers.
Despite that, manager, Jack Cooney remained upbeat: "Whoever comes out of the hat in the morning, we'll be preparing as well as we can."
Scorers - Laois: E O'Carroll 0-8 (5f), P Kingston 0-2, C Boyle, E Lowry 0-1 each.
Westmeath: G Egan 0-7 (6f), J Heslin, R O'Toole, C McCormack 0-1 each.