Carlow's Leinster final dream over as Laois secure deserved win
Laois 0-12 Carlow 0-8
Carlow footballers' hopes of reaching their first Leinster final since 1944 died at Croke Park where they were unable to replicate the form that shocked Kildare in the previous round.
In a poor game Laois deserved their victory, playing the better football even is still well short of their best form.
Carlow earned their place in the last four with an impeccable performance in the quarter finals, scoring from every opportunity created. That kind of accuracy is virtually unheard of and proved too much to repeat.
A huge following arrived from Carlow to cheer on the team who emerged from Division 4 of the National League earlier in the year for the first time in over 30 years. Under manager Turlough O'Brien, and the coaching of Down import Steven Poacher, they have made massive strides.
Only four years ago they conceded seven goals in a championship drubbing from Meath, the same year they finished rock bottom of all counties in the league. But against Laois, who had beaten them twice already this season, they could not end that long wait for a provincial final and never led in the match.
They started slowly and were second best in a tedious first half that had Laois leading 0-6 to 0-3. Paul Broderick landed his first point attempt short and was wide from his first free, with another free, though from 45m near the sideline, falling short. Left alone for much of the first half in the Carlow attacking zone, he struggled to make an impact and finished the half with only one score, from a free. In the second half Broderick finally scored from play but Carlow's attacking limitation were badly exposed.
Their others scores came in the first half came from Diarmuid Walshe and Darragh O'Brien, both good efforts from play, but they showed little in the way of attacking football and had grave difficulty adapting their game to the greater expanses of Croke Park, struggling to effectively carry the ball from defence to attack whenever they turned Laois over.
They were hesitant throughout the first half and mostly on the backfoot as well as struggling in the middle of the field. Walshe had a goal chance nearing half time, but turned back on his left foot and the opportunity was lost. Their best player in that period and for much of the game, Jordan Morrissey, was almost in on goal in the 25th minute but cynically fouled by Mark Timmons. Astonishingly, referee Fergal Kelly did not book Timmons, which defied belief.
Laois missed four frees in that first half, two from Ross Munnelly and two more from Donal Kingston, but they still kicked some good scores from Colm Begley, Alan Farrell Finbarr Crowley and a delightful finish over the shoulder from Kingston. Carlow needed a major uplift in their performance to turn the match around and end a 30-year wait for a championship win over Laois.
After half time Laois failed to score for 15 minutes, substitute Brian Glynn ending their drought to restore a two-point advantage after two Broderick frees had narrowed it to the minimum. He missed a free from 20m, then atoned with another from almost 45m. After Glynn's point, Broderick responded with his first from play and Carlow had renewed hope, trailing by just one point, 0-6 to 0-7, with 52 minutes played.
But they couldn't get level and Laois had chances to widen that lead but Kingston missed a free from well within his range and his brother Paul had another off target effort from play. None of this made for compelling viewing. Eventually Niall Donoher managed to hit the target with a point that left them two ahead nearing the hour mark. A foul on Evan O'Carroll, recently introduced, gave Kingston another free and this time he nailed it to leave Laois three clear with ten minutes left.
Broderick's fifth point, a free, narrowed the gap, but Laois responded again, this time Kingston landing a free from the hand with five minutes left. Carlow looked to have a goal chance when Shane Redmond made a penetrating run but Laois averted the danger. Three points was still a major deficit to make up with Carlow's set-up and try as they might they couldn't find a way. John O'Loughlin and Evan O'Carroll out the result beyond doubt with injury-time points.
Scorers: Laois - K Kingston 0-3 (0-2 fs); R Munnelly 0-2 (0-2 fs); C Begley, A Farrell, F Crowley, B Glynn, N Donoher, J O'Loughlin, E O'Carroll 0-1. Carlow - P Broderick 0-6 (0-5 fs); D Walshe, D O'Brien 0-1.
Laois: G Brody; S Attride, M Timmons, G Dillon; T Collins, C Begley, F Crowley; J O'Loughlin, K Lillis; A Farrell, N Donoher, D O'Connor; R Munnelly, D Kingston, P Kingston.
Subs: B Carroll for O'Connor (42 mins); B Glynn for Farrell (46); E O'Carroll for Munnelly (53); D Stronge for P Kingston (63); G Walsh for D Kingston (70); D Conway for O'Loughlin (72); S Nerney for Attride (inj 75).
Carlow: R Molloy; C Crowley, S Redmond, C Lawlor; J Morrissey, D St Ledger, C Moran; S Murphy, E Ruth; S Gannon, D Foley, D Walshe; P Broderick, D O'Brien, K Murphy.
Subs: B Kavanagh for Gannon (inj half time); C Lawler for Walshe (57); K Nolan for Crowley (70); D Moran for J Murphy (71).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford) .