The Laois hurlers are assured of Division 1 hurling again in 2021 after beating Carlow in O’Moore Park on Saturday nigh by 0-15 to 0-14.
The win means Laois cannot be relegated as they will not finish bottom of Division 1B and will so avoid the relegation playoff against the lowest-placed side in Division 1A, more than likely Westmeath.
Here we go through some of the game’s main talking points.
Man of the Match – Ross King
King scored 12 of Laois’s 15 points in another fine performance. Nine of the points were frees with three points from play in the first half and his winning score coming from a free in injury time.
His free-taking was almost flawless on a really difficult evening and he was again Laois’s go-to forward.
A big performance when Laois needed him most.
Weather watch and pitch problems
The MW Hire O’Moore Park pitch, hosting its fourth game in seven days, was in absolute bits and got worse as the game went on and the rain intensified.
Eddie Brennan said afterwards that the game shouldn’t have gone ahead such was the conditions and for the second week running, Laois have played in the most awful of weather.
After picking up a handful of injuries last week, it was miracle that no player from either side suffered serious injury on a surface that was incredibly slippy and mucky from start to finish.
Referee Cathall McAllister from Cork is a highly-experienced official but a number of his decisions left both sides outraged.
Laois seemed to be denied a goal late in the first half when he blew Ross King for the harmless of fouls while Carlow were livid at a free awarded for what looked like a perfect flick away on Paddy Purcell in the second half.
There was also what seemed a harsh yellow on Ciaran McEvoy in the first half and no card for the most cynical of fouls on Purcell when he was racing through in the second.
Great Laois battle
Both sides have to be credited for digging and battling so hard and it was heart-warming to see the Laois players pull off a hard-fought win in such an important fixture.
Carlow aren’t one of the top sides but they are a team that Laois have struggled with in recent seasons.
And following three competitive showings against Wexford, Dublin and Clare, Laois’s efforts were rewarded tonight when they pulled out a win in very tough circumstances.
Injuries robbed Laois of players like Ryan Mullaney, Stephen Bergin, Eric Killeen, Colm Stapleton, James Keyes and Diarmuid Conway as the impact of having so many games in quick succession takes its toll.
You also have the likes of Neil Foyle, Mark Kavanagh and Eanna Lyons all unavailable.
But the players that did feature stood up and gave it everything with the likes of Donnacha Hartnett, Podge Delaney, Fiachra C Fennell, Paddy Purcell and Willie Dunphy all leading the way on a night when hard work was paramount.
Other results and how they stand?
Wexford beat Dublin by 2-14 to 0-18 in Croke Park this evening which puts them in poll position to top the division as they play Carlow next week.
The first team in the group goes straight through to the semi-final with second and third going into the quarter-finals.
Laois’s win puts them on two points which means they are safe as even if Carlow were to beat Wexford next week and Laois lost to Kilkenny, Laois will stay ahead of Carlow by dint of tonight’s win and thus the better head-to-head record.
Laois will need to beat Kilkenny and a string of other results to go their way (including a Clare win over Kilkenny tomorrow, a Clare win over Dublin next week) and a big swing in the scoring difference to have a chance of finishing in the top three positions. It’s unlikely.
Laois welcome Kilkenny to Portlaoise next Sunday for the final game of the regular section of the league.
While Laois are safe from relegation, they are unlikely to be in the mix for a quarter-final slot.
Laois would then have a break until early May and the start of the Leinster championship.