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Relegation playoff and club championship delay on the cards for Laois following Kilkenny defeat

Laois 0-22 Kilkenny 1-29
National Hurling League Round 4

The Laois senior hurlers will face a league relegation playoff against Westmeath after they were  beaten by Kilkenny in Nowlan Park this afternoon.

As Antrim drew with Wexford and Clare defeated Dublin yesterday, Laois had to pick up at least a draw to give themselves any chance of avoiding finishing bottom of the group ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Belfast.

But that did not happen and Laois now face that game in mid August against Westmeath as a curtain raiser to the All-Ireland senior hurling semi final.

Laois GAA had hoped to play the 2020 senior and premier intermediate championship finals in late July or early August but if that game against Westmeath goes ahead as scheduled, it will most likely mean a further delay is on the cards.

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody made six changes from the side who defeated Wexford last week but it made little difference to them as this game was over by half time with the home side holding a nine point lead.

Laois were much improved in the second half – losing it by just a point.

The game started as so many have for Laois this season – with a string of wides.

They hit four in the opening nine minutes as Kilkenny registered a brace each from James Bergin and Eoin Cody.

PJ Scully finally opened Laois’s account then but Kilkenny continued to pile on the pressure with Billy Ryan, Richie Reid and Michael Carey joining Bergin and Cody on the scoresheet to leave them eight clear.

Laois were thankful to captain Enda Rowland in that period too as he made a stunning save to deny Eoin Cody from point blank range.

Paddy Purcell and Scully finally ended the Kilkenny blitz – and Laois were actually unlucky not to have a goal instead of that Scully free as Fiachra C-Fennell’s run was halted illegally but the ball broke to Eoin Gaughan who rattled the net – only for referee Rory McGann to already have blown his whistle.

Kilkenny led 0-10 to 0-3 at the water break but Laois began the second quarter well with Enda Rowland and Paddy Purcell scoring either side of a Richie Reid point.

But disaster would strike for Laois on 21 minutes when an Eoin Murphy puck-out landed in the square and although Sean Downey initially hooked Liam Blanchfield, he recovered to kick the ball past Rowland and into the net.

The sides actually traded points from there to half time – Stephen Maher’s the pick of them from in front of the stand on the 65 as Kilkenny took a 1-15 to 0-9 lead at half time.

Laois were far brighter in the opening ten minutes of the second half and actually outscored their hosts.

PJ Scully (4), Aaron Dunphy, Ross King and Lee Cleere all split the posts and while Kilkenny replied through Eoin Cody, Adrian Mullen and James Bergin, the gap was back to six.

Kilkenny steadied with points from Martin Keoghan, Conor Fogarty, Adrian Mullen and a free from Eoin Cody to lead 1-23 to 0-16 at the water break and end any fleeting hopes that Laois would stage an unlikely comeback.

Laois kept battling away with PJ Scully (2) and Ross King eating into the Kilkenny lead as manager Plunkett brought on Willie Dunphy and Eanna Lyons for the first appearances of the year following their recovery from injury.

Eoin Cody hit a 65 but a third Ross King point of the second half left seven between them as we entered the final ten minutes – where Laois had a great goal chance.

Paddy Purcell and Eanna Lyons split the Kilkenny defence apart with a searing run and the latter popped the ball across to PJ Scully who saw his effort blocked out for a 65 – which he did convert.

Liam Blanchfield and Jack Kelly traded efforts but with the game in the final stages, Laois needed goals in order to cause a shock.

They had another chance with 67 minutes on the clock with sub Stephen Bergin fed Scully but this time Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy pulled off a fine save with Scully missing the resulting 65.

They didn’t come in the end and Laois will now travel to Belfast next week for a dead rubber game with Antrim before facing Wexford in the Leinster championship quarter final on June 26.

SCORERS – Laois: PJ Scully 0-11 (nine frees, one 65), Ross King 0-3, Jack Kelly 0-2, Paddy Purcell 0-2, Enda Rowland 0-1 (one free), Stephen Maher 0-1, Aaron Dunphy 0-1, Lee Cleere 0-1 Kilkenny: Eoin Cody 0-11 (eight frees, one 65), Liam Blanchfield 1-2, James Bergin 0-5, Conor Fogorty 0-2, Adrian Mullen 0-2, Richie Reid 0-2, Billy Ryan 0-1, Michael Carey 0-1, Martin Keoghan 0-1, John Donnelly 0-1, Tadhg O’Dwyer 0-1

LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Diarmaid Conway, Sean Downey, Donnchadh Hartnett; Jack Kelly, Ciaran McEvoy, Stephen Maher; Fiachra C-Fennell, Paddy Purcell; James Ryan, Aaron Dunphy, Ciaran Collier; PJ Scully, Ross King, Eoin Gaughan. Subs: Ciaran Comerford for Gaughan and Willie Dunphy for Ryan (both ht), Lee Cleere for Conway (37), Eanna Lyons for Collier and Ryan Mullaney for Maher (both 53), James Keyes for Dunphy (57), Stephen Bergin for King (61)

KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Paddy Deegan, Joey Holden; Darragh Corcoran, Huw Lawlor, Michael Carey; Richie Reid, Conor Fogarty; Adrian Mullen, Martin Keoghan, Billy Ryan; James Bergin, Liam Blanchfield, Eoin Cody. Subs: Tadhg O’Dwyer for Ryan (43), John Donnelly for Keoghan (48), Michael Cody for Carey (50), Alan Murphy for Mullen (56), Padraig Walsh for T Walsh (64)

Referee: Rory McGann (Clare)

SEE ALSO – Parents of tragic young Laois man who died by suicide urge support for SOSAD Laois Online Variety Show

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.