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Laois go down fighting after giving 2020 defeated All-Ireland finalists Waterford an almighty shock

Laois 2-21 Waterford 3-23
All-Ireland Hurling Qualifiers Round 1

The 2021 championship campaign is over for the Laois hurlers – but only after they gave 2020 defeated All-Ireland finalists an almighty shock.

Laois were eight points down at half time but came back to lead by one as we entered the final ten minutes of normal time.

The game was right in the balance until a late Waterford goal settled it deep in injury time – but what a performance it was from Laois.

Waterford started the better and scored the first three points through Patrick Curran and Jack Prendergast.

But Laois settled with a PJ Scully free and then almost had a goal from a Cha Dwyer snapshot which eventually ended in a Paddy Purcell point to make it a one point game after 10 minutes.

The sides traded points then until the game turned on 14 minutes. Waterford worked the ball up the wing and it ended with Kevin Moran mis-hitting a shot.

That effort was blocked by Donnchadh Hartnett but keeper Enda Rowland had already dived and the ball deflected the opposite direction and trickled into the net.

Neil Montgomery and Dessie Hutchinson scored for Waterford to leave Waterford 1-8 to 0-4 ahead at the first water break.

Laois started well with a point from Paddy Purcell when play resumed but Waterford stepped on the gas again.

Stephen Bennett was accurate from placed balls while Austin Gleeson, Iarlaith Daly and Jack Fagan also got in on the act.

They could have killed the game altogether after 25 minutes when Kevin Moran got in and popped the ball across the square to Stephen Bennett.

Keeper Rowland had come out to close Moran down and was now stranded by corner back Hartnett came out of nowhere to make a goal-saving block.

This lifted Laois as Paddy Purcell reeled off two more points to take his first half tally to four with PJ Scully and Podge Delaney also point to cut the gap to five after 32 minutes.

But Waterford finished the half strongly as Bennett landed two more frees either side of an Austin Gleeson score to leave it 1-16 to 0-11.

Cha Dwyer cut the gap straight away and although Rowland added a free, Calum Lyons responded with a point.

But the gap was back to four after 42 minutes. A great ball inside from Fiachra C-Fennell found Paddy Purcell and he shrugged off several defenders to rattle the net.

Dessie Hutchinson hit back but two more PJ Scully frees left it 1-18 to 1-16 after 50 minutes.

Scully and Bennett traded points and Waterford thought they had a goal through Dessie Hutchinson but the referee brought back play for a throw ball.

From the resulting free, Rowland drove the ball into the square where Cha Dwyer caught it and laid it off to Ciaran Comerford who rattled the net – Laois now led for the first time, 2-17 to 1-19, as we headed for the second water break.

Waterford came back at Laois through Hutchinson and Bennett but Laois repelled them via Scully and sub Aaron Dunphy to hold a one point lead on the hour mark.

But then disaster struck as straight from a Waterford puck-out, the ball fell to Patrick Curran and he raced through to score a goal.

Laois continued to battle and as we entered the final minute of injury time, there was still just two points between them.

But a late Stephen Bennett goal with virtually the last puck, settled it Waterford’s way.

SCORERS – Laois: PJ Scully 0-10 (eight frees, one sideline), Paddy Purcell 1-4, Ciaran Comerford 1-0, Cha Dwyer 0-2, Podge Delaney 0-1 Ciaran Collier 0-1, James Keyes 0-1, Aaron Dunphy 0-1, Enda Rowland 0-1 (one free) Waterford: Stephen Bennett 1-7 (six frees, one 65), Kevin Moran 1-1, Patrick Curran 1-2, Dessie Hutchinson 0-3, Calum Lyons 0-2, Austin Gleeson 0-2, Iarlaith Daly 0-1, Jack Fagan 0-1, Jack Prendergast 0-1, Neil Montgomery 0-1, Darragh Lyons 0-1

LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Fiachra C-Fennell, Sean Downey, Donnchadh Hartnett; Podge Delaney, Ciaran McEvoy, Stephen Maher; Jack Kelly, James Keyes; Paddy Purcell, Cha Dwyer, Ciaran Collier; PJ Scully, Willie Dunphy, Ross King. Subs: Ciaran Comerford for Dunphy (30), James Ryan for Maher (34), Aaron Dunphy for King (55), John Lennon for McEvoy (62), Matthew Whelan for Keyes (72)

WATERFORD: Shaun O’Brien; Conor Gleeson, Conor Prunty, Ian Kenny; Calum Lyons, Shane Bennett, Iarlaith Daly; Neil Montgomery, Patrick Curran; Jack Fagan, Austin Gleeson, Kevin Moran; Stephen Bennett, Jack Prendergast, Dessie Hutchinson. Subs: Darragh Lyons for Montgomery (28), Michael Kiely for Moran (48), Peter Hogan for Fagan (51), Jamie Barron for Predergast (57), Shane McNulty for Shane Bennett (59)

Referee: (Galway)

SEE ALSO – Laois Football chairman Laurence Phelan steps down from role with immediate effect

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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.