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Kingston hat-trick puts Lake men to the sword

Laois 4-13 Westmeath 1-12

Hat-trick hero Paul Kingston. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Hat-trick hero Paul Kingston. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

A second-half hat-trick from Paul Kingston was instrumental in securing Division 4 champions Laois a Leinster quarter-final win over Westmeath in Tullamore last night.

Laois will now meet the winners of today's Kildare v Carlow game in their first provincial semi-final appearance since 2009.

The winners had played more than 100 minutes of championship football - their first-round clash against another Division 3 side, Wexford, went to extra-time - and this proved decisive against a weakened Westmeath side who contested back-to-back Leinster finals in 2015 and 2016.

After a promising start under new boss Colin Kelly, Westmeath's season has unravelled. They finished fourth in Division 3 and then lost their vice-captain James Dolan, who opted to play football in the US during the summer.

Worse still, they started without their captain and top scorer John Heslin - sidelined with a hip injury - and although he was introduced in the final quarter, the game was slipping beyond their reach at that stage.

It's the first time since 2007 that Laois have won back-to-back matches in the Leinster championship, which represents a good return for new boss John Sugrue.

Colm Begley of Laois in action against Sam Duncan of Westmeath. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Colm Begley of Laois in action against Sam Duncan of Westmeath. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The Lake men started strongly, though. Even though they had the breeze, Laois found the going tough against Westmeath's 12-man defence and were 0-3 to 0-1 down after ten minutes.

Their woes worsened when referee Padraig Hughes turned down Donie Kingston's legitimate claim for a penalty after he appeared to be pulled back by Sam Duncan - who was booked just before the break for persistent fouling.

The battle between this pair was one of the highlights of a largely uneventful first half, though not for Westmeath corner-forward John Connellan who was black-carded five minutes before the break after tripping the outstanding Gareth Dillon.

By then Laois - who had fallen three points behind by the 17th minute - had finally got their act together, winning a succession of their opponents' kick-outs, and they kicked six points on the spin in closing ten minutes of the half to leave them 0-10 to 0-6 ahead at the break. Substitute Niall Donoher got two.

John Connellan of Westmeath in action against Kieran Lillis of Laois. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
John Connellan of Westmeath in action against Kieran Lillis of Laois. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The sides exchanged points on the resumption. Laois dominated the second half territorially but again found it difficult to penetrate the Westmeath rearguard. Wing-back Trevor Collins had a chance after a pass from Paul Kingston but he shot straight at goalkeeper Stephen Gallagher in the 44th minute

But a minute later they did make the breakthrough when Colm Begley found Paul Kingston in space and he rifled an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net.

Ger Egan pulled a point back through a free but Paul Kingston punished Westmeath again in the 50th minute when he drove a low shot to the net despite the despairing efforts of Sam Duncan.

Laois were now nine points clear; Westmeath scored the next two points and then introduced Heslin, and with 14 minutes remaining they secured a lifeline when a speculative ball from Egan was met by Kieran Martin. His effort was blocked but corner-back Mark McCallon drove the rebound to the net.

But straight from the kick-out Laois drove down the field and Paul Kingston, whose move to the edge of the square was a pivotal switch, completed his hat-trick with a brilliant goal in the 60th minute.

Any lingering doubts about the outcome were finally put to bed when Laois substitute Evan O'Carroll scored 1-1 within 90 seconds of his introduction.

Scorers - Laois: P Kingston 3-2; E O'Carroll 1-1; R Munnelly 0-3 (3f); N Donoher 0-2; T Collins, C Begley, A Farrell, D Kingston (f), G Walsh 0-1 each. Westmeath: G Egan 0-4; L Loughlin 0-3 (2f); M McCallon 1-0; F Coyne 0-2; K Martin, R O'Toole, J Connellan (f) 0-1 each.

Laois: G Brody; S Attride, M Timmons, G Dillon; T Collins, C Begley, F Crowley; J O'Loughlin, K Lillis; A Farrell, P Kingston, D O'Connor; R Munnelly, D Kingston, B Carroll. Subs: N Donoher for Farrell (22); Evan O'Carroll for Carroll (58); D Strong for O'Connor (58); D Conway for Munnelly (63); G Walsh for D Kingston (67), D Booth for Attride (75).

Westmeath: S Gallagher; M McCallon, S Duncan, J Gonoud; J Egan, A Stone, N Mulligan; D Corroon, D Daly; K Martin, C McCormack, G Egan; L Loughlin, R O'Toole, J Connellan. Subs: F Coyne for Connellan (BC, 30); R Wallace for Daly (42); A McGivney for Egan (49); J Heslin for O'Toole (54); B Sayeh for Mulligan (71); D Whelan for McCallon (71).

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).

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