In-form Nolan firing on all cylinders as spirited Kerry take command in relegation dogfight
Kerry 2-27 Laois 1-19
The rights or wrongs of this relegation play-off are a debate for another day. Kerry hurled magnificently throughout and fully deserved to secure their place in Division 1B next season.
However, Ciaran Carey's spirited troops got some help from Laois along the way in this Division 1B relegation play-off game, played at the Austin Stack Park, Tralee on Saturday. Laois did not help their cause when they lost their way and discipline midway through the second half and ended up with just 12 on the pitch.
Laois trailed by just six points when they lost wing-forward Willie Dunphy to a second yellow in the 46th minute and then six minutes later sub Ross Ring was shown a straight red. Then with the contest decided, Laois were reduced to 12, when Willie Hyland got a straight red for an altercation with Patrick Kelly in the 69th minute.
Kerry boss Carey was delighted with the win. "The most pleasing aspect of today was that we secured Division 1B hurling," he said.
"It was nice to have control of our own destiny, meaning by getting a result today. That is what we came here looking for and in fairness to the lads they went out; 2-27 is great clipping, 0-17 in the first half, so it was a day to savour."
Carey was glad that Kerry's two league wins did not become irrelevant against a Laois side that had finished the league pointless.
"I suppose what it did really with the way the results went in 1A and 1B this year, it highlighted the inequity of the league system in 1A and 1B," he said. "We were in an unfortunate position today after winning two games, to be still in a play-off but having said that today was our biggest game of the year as far as I am concerned because it was crucial to maintain our status in 1B and they hurled in accordance with that in mind"
The first half of this relegation face-off was a feast of attacking hurling with 26 scores and a couple of goal chances being created by both sides. Kerry were on top after a nervous opening as they raced to a six-point lead by half-time (0-17 to 1-8) and never looked back from there. Even a first-half goal for Laois' Stephen Maher didn't halt the Kingdom's momentum. With Michael O'Leary rampant for Kerry at centre-forward, and Shane Nolan and John Egan scoring at will, Laois were on the back foot from the off.
Indeed, Kerry's half-forward line was in sensational form delivering 1-14 of Kerry's total. The return to form of Nolan - scorer of 1-9 - and the touch and skill of sharpshooter Egan was a huge factor for Kerry.
When they scored a goal just four minutes into the second half they looked in complete control. Jack Goulding picked out the brilliant Egan with a beautiful crossfield ball and the Ardfert man did the rest.
Kerry now led by eight. This seemed to spur Laois into action and they played some of their best hurling, gaining a foothold in the game for a spell scoring points through Charles Dwyer and Maher.
Then disaster for Laois as they lost two players in seven minutes. Kerry assumed control, with a succession of points before Egan pounced for a Kerry goal in the 63rd minute and Kerry cruised to victory in a testy final ten minutes. So Kerry will see it as justice being done as they stay in Division 1 B next year while Laois have a trap door game next weekend against Westmeath.
scorers - Kerry: S Nolan 1-9 ( 6 f), J Egan 1-6, M O'Leary 0-3, J Griffin, B O'Leary , M Boyle and J Goulding 0-2 each , C Harty 0-1. Laois: PJ Scully 0-7 (3f, 1 '65), S Maher 1-1, C Dwyer 0-4, C Healy and W Hyland 0-2 each, E Rowland (f), P Purcell and W Dunphy 0-1 each
KERRY - A McCabe 8; B Murphy 8, P Kelly 8, K Carmody 8; J Diggins 8, D Dineen 9, T Murnane 8; J Griffin 8, D Collins 7; B O'Leary 8, M O'Leary 9, S Nolan 9; J Conway 7 , M Boyle 8, J Egan 9. Subs: J Goulding 8 for J Conway (h-t), T Casey 7 for D Collins (43), C Harty 7for B O'Leary (56), B Brosnan 7 for J Diggins (64), J O'Connor 7 for J Egan (64)
LAOIS - E Rowland 8; T Delaney 6, D Maher 7, C Healy 8; L Bergin 6, M Whelan 6, R Mullaney 6; P Purcell 7, C Stapleton 6; C Dwyer 8, S Maher 7, W Dunphy 5; J Lennon 5, W Hyland 7, P J Scully 8. Subs: N Foyle 6 for M Whelan (22), J Phelan 6 for T Delaney (44), R King 4 for J Lennon (48), B Reddin 6 for Bergin (66).
Ref - S Cleere (Kilkenny)