Laois end Carlow fairytale to book final date with Dubs
Laois 0-12 Carlow 0-8
It wasn't the prettiest of games but it had perhaps the most fitting of endings.
For most of the 70-plus minutes, Laois had shown themselves to be the more rounded side. But Carlow were being Carlow and keeping themselves in touch through a combination of organisation, graft and some wayward Laois shooting.
When it came down to the home straight, the Barrowsiders were still within a score; that left the Laois support uneasy. However Evan O'Carroll, whose father died during the week, was on hand to put his team four points to the good and into a first Leinster final since 2007.
"It was a tough day for Evan, but that fella has been standing up inside the dressing-room this year and doing a big job for us," Laois boss John Sugrue said.
"He's had an injury or two and it's set him back, but please God he'll be challenging hard for a place in the Leinster final, but it's a great sign of a man, a great sign of steel inside in a fella and it's probably a fitting tribute to his dad that he came out and he finished the game for us today."
On the balance of things, Laois deserved their place in the final but the game itself won't be remembered with any fondness.
After 20 minutes, Laois led by 0-2 to 0-1 as Carlow retreated inside their own half and looked to hit their opponents on the break.
This was the third meeting of the sides this season and Laois weren't about to fall into the trap. They were patient, flicking the ball over and back across the Carlow 45 until the right opportunity presented itself. It was the best approach but one that was hard on the eyes.
Laois opened up a 0-5 to 0-2 lead on 27 minutes when Finbarr Crowley clipped over a free. The teams swapped points before the break to see Laois take a 0-6 to 0-3 lead in at the interval.
The second half saw a slight improvement but Laois scored just a single point in the 20 minutes after the restart.
By that stage, Carlow had closed the gap to a point with wing-backs Jordan Morrissey and Ciaran Moran causing plenty of trouble.
Laois led by three again coming into the final five minutes but Carlow fashioned a goal chance, only for Shane Redmond to see his effort blocked. It was one of a number of decent goal opportunities they fashioned but Redmond's effort was their last real chance to raise the green flag they needed. Laois then grabbed the insurance point through O'Carroll.
"We had four or five goal chances and didn't convert any of them," Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien commented ruefully. "If we had got a goal when there was a point in it in the second half, we might have got momentum out of that, we might have put Laois under huge pressure.
"I think they were under pressure at the time and just about held out. Even if we got a point out of one or two of those, who knows what would have happened?
"Laois are well versed in how we play and play a similar style themselves. They held possession of the ball very well. We turned them over a lot of times in the first half.
"There was some brilliant defending from us but we tried to attack from our own 20m line very fast with too much ground to make. We probably should have been more patient on the ball at that stage. It was a tight game again, a low-scoring game and unfortunately Laois got over the line."
For Sugrue and his players it was another step forward. Laois will contest a Leinster final for the first time since 2007 - when they went down to Dublin - which represents considerable progress since they slipped into the basement division a little over 12 months ago.
"Yeah, happy overall to be into the Leinster final, happy to have got ourselves through that game," said Sugrue.
"It wasn't pretty for long stretches, but we managed to get through it. They're hard opposition to play against, so we're happy enough to have managed that.
"I don't think anyone in the country at this moment in time can look at Carlow and say that they know what's coming. If they do then they're not looking at the game properly to a great degree, so Carlow were very stiff opposition.
"They took a long, long time to break down and it took a long, long time to get a few scores ahead to ensure that we were comfortable. They stuck with us in the second half and at times it probably went a bit too close for comfort for us."
The Carlow fairytale in Leinster is over but O'Brien has no doubt his side will be competitive in the qualifiers.
"It's to get over the initial disappointment of today," he said.
"That crew there are a very happy crew, they're really enjoying their football and their whole preparation for games. They're very united, really like a club team and I think they'll bounce back. It's going to take two or three days mind you.
"We'll have to wait to see the draw in the morning and I'm sure the heads will be lifted."
SCORERS - Laois: D Kingston 0-3 (2fs), R Munnelly 0-2fs, C Begley, F Crowley, A Farrell, N Donoher, P Kingston, E O'Carroll, B Glynn 0-1 each. Carlow: P Broderick 0-5 (4fs), D O'Brien, D Walshe, D Foley (f) 0-1 each.
Laois - G Brody 7; S Attride 6, M Timmons 6, G Dillon 6; T Collins 6, C Begley 7, F Crowley 7; J O'Loughlin 6, K Lillis 6; A Farrell 7, N Donoher 8, D O'Connor 7; R Munelly 6, D Kingston 6, P Kingston 6. Subs: B Carroll 7 for O'Connor (42), B Glynn 6 for Farrell (46), E O'Carroll 7 for Munnelly (54), D Strong 6 for P Kingston (63), G Walsh for D Kingston (70), D Conway for O'Loughlin (72), S Nerney for Attride (74).
Carlow - R Molloy 7; C Crowley 6, S Redmond 6, C Lawlor 6; J Morrissey 7, D St Ledger 7, C Moran 6; S Murphy 6, E Ruth 6; S Gannon 6, D Foley 6, D Walshe 7; P Broderick 6, D O'Brien 6, J Murphy 6. Subs: B Kavanagh 6 for Gannon (HT), C Lawler 6 for Walshe (57), S Doyle 6 for O'Brien (63), K Nolan for Crowley (70), D Moran for J Murphy (72).
Ref - F Kelly (Longford)