Conroy contribution proves decisive as Laois find range
Laois 1-17 Carlow 1-14
A Laois scoring burst just after half-time, which produced an unanswered 1-3, proved the crucial period of this lacklustre tie at Netwatch Cullen Park yesterday as the visitors claimed victory in a local derby which never reached any great heights.
Interval substitute Ben Conroy did most of the scoring damage in that purple patch for the O'Moore County, hitting 1-3 from play as Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett's side stretched into an eight-point lead, having held a 0-7 to 0-5 lead at the break.
The game witnessed a strong Carlow finish, which saw them reduce the Laois lead to three points when centre-forward Eddie Byrne kicked the sliotar into the net.
But while Carlow did have one last injury-time chance, when Marty Kavanagh's long-range free was deflected goalwards, the effort was saved confidently by Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland.
This was far from being a classic for the attendance of 2,000. The opening half was dominated by the respective free-takers, Zane Keenan, the Laois midfielder, and Carlow's Kavanagh.
Both defences were generally on top and there was a serious lack of scoring power in both full-forward lines, with Sean Murphy's point on the hour mark for Carlow being the only score from play by either starting inside-forward lines.
The tricky wind made conditions difficult for the players, but could hardly fully explain the inordinate number of sideline cuts.
The Laois goal, four minutes after the restart, was the real game-changer. Keenan's low-trajectory free caused confusion in the home defence and there was substitute Conroy to scramble the ball into the net.
Laois, buoyed by those early second-half scores, dominated most of the half, leading by 1-15 to 0-7 after 54 minutes.
But Carlow showed courage in those final minutes, trimming the lead back to six points before Byrne's goal gave the home support hope that they could pull a draw out of the game.
But Laois held their nerve to win by three points to claim the bragging rights and will now face Westmeath, who have full points from two games.
Meanwhile, Carlow will entertain Antrim in their final round-robin game and one they have to win if they are to entertain hopes of a possible three-way play-off for the second qualifying spot and a meeting with Wexford. Keenan top-scored for Laois with 0-10, 0-9 from frees, while the impact of Conroy proved crucial, the Slieve Bloom clubman scoring 1-3 from play.
Carlow's Marty Kavanagh notched 0-6, all from frees.
The game's outstanding score was a magnificent point from a second-half line-cut from Carlow midfielder Diarmuid Byrne.
But overall, it was a game greatly lacking in quality.
Man of the Match: Ben Conroy (Laois)
Scorers - Laois: Z Keenan 0-10 (9f), B Conroy 1-3, C Dwyer 0-2, S Maher PJ Scully 0-1 each. Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-6 (6f), E Byrne 1-1, D Byrne 0-2 (0-1 line cut), J Kavanagh 0-2, D English 0-2 (1f), S Murphy 0-1.
Carlow - K Kehoe 6; S Kavanagh 7, J Rogers 7, A Corcoran 7; R Coady 7, D English 7, E Coady 7; D Byrne 7, C Wall 5; J M Nolan 5, E Byrne 7, J Kavanagh 6; Seán Murphy 6, Seamus Murphy 5, M Kavanagh 6. Subs: P Coady 5 for Seamus Murphy (43); M Brennan 5 for Wall (46); G Coady for J Kavanagh (65).
Laois - E Rowland 7; JA Delaney 7, C Healy 8, B Stapleton 7; J Fitzpatrick 7, M Whelan 7, J Campion 7; Z Keenan 8, P Purcell 5; PJ Scully 5, S Maher 6, C Dwyer 7; R King 5, W Hyland 5, T Fitzgerald 5. Subs: B Conroy 9 for Scully (h-t); P Whelan for Maher.
Ref - D Kirwan (Cork)