Sugrue: It's Division 4, let no one lose sight of that
Laois 0-15 Carlow 0-11
As far as gaining promotion from Division 4 was concerned, Laois were damned if they did and damned if they didn't.
After all, some of their number had played in the top-flight before the county's rapid descent through the divisions. And in Ross Munnelly, they have a link to the Leinster winning side of 2003. For most in the county, Division 4 is a place they should never have found themselves.
But that's where they were when the campaign started in January. On Saturday in Croke Park it ended with a deserved victory over Carlow and a rare piece of silverware for the county. However, manager John Sugrue was quick to sound a note of caution as their Leinster championship opener against Wexford comes into view.
"We just have to take stock, we have beaten a well-organised Carlow team two weekends on the trot. It's still is Division 4 and let no one lose sight of that. We've just got out of Division 4 and won a Division 4 final. It's nice to do it and we'll enjoy it but we have to get back to the grindstone."
Laois's win came about thanks to a blistering start that saw them race into a 0-5 to no score lead after 11 minutes. Most of the Carlow team were playing at HQ for the first time and their inexperience showed early on with Laois winning turnovers and generally settling into their groove. Carlow didn't manage a shot on goal until their first wide on 12 minutes.
The Barrowsiders improved as the half wore on and might have had a goal on 22 minutes. However, John Murphy hit the stanchion from a tight angle.
Carlow were game but struggled in attack while at the other end, Laois had Munnelly and Donie Kingston in top form. Between them they contributed seven of Laois's 10 points by the short whistle which saw them lead by double scores (0-10 to 0-5).
Turlough O'Brien's side were better in the second half and were getting some joy from the Laois kick-outs. Three unanswered scores saw them cut the gap to three points at the three-quarter stage.
They manufactured two goal chances over the next few minutes. First, Ciaran Moran was denied by an excellent save from Graham Brody and a few minutes later, Brendan Murphy shot when Sean Gannon was better placed.
And while they would get to within three points again, Laois didn't look like losing at any stage.
Carlow manager O'Brien had no qualms with the result. "We gave them too big a lead at the start of the game," he reflected. "We had plenty of possession in that period but we got turned over too often. We made a lot of mistakes and you'd hope it is a learning experience.
"It was the first game in Croke Park for a lot of these guys and there was a lot at stake and I think Laois just about deserved it. I thought we fought back very well and dominated the kick-outs in the second half and turned over the Laois kick-outs more often than not and we had them on the back foot but we couldn't force it home.
"We made a lot of mistakes, missed simple frees and had a couple of goal chances we didn't avail of. We threatened their net a few times and they didn't do that to us so while they won the game I don't think there was a whole lot in it."
For Sugrue, there were signs that his side are improving with every game.
"Fellas are starting to work harder on what we are trying to do and overall if you counted the number of points they kicked over two days with no pressure on them or in open space I think you'd find very little. Our guys are working hard and hard work gets you there."
O'Brien believes that his side will bounce into their championship opener against Louth despite this setback.
"We have had a great campaign. The whole target was to get promoted and we have done that. The league final was a bonus so it was a good game to get and it brings us closer to championship."
Scorers - Laois: D Kingston 0-5 (2f); R Munnelly 0-4 (1f); E Lowry 0-3 (1f); K Lillis, J O'Loughlin, A Farrell 0-1 each. Carlow: D Foley (1f), S Gannon 0-3 each; P Broderick 0-2 (1f); B Murphy, S Murphy, S Redmond 0-1 each.
Laois - G Brody 8; S Attride 7, M Timmons 6, G Dillon 6; T Collins 6, C Begley 6, R Pigott 6; J O'Loughlin 7, K Lillis 7; A Farrell 7, B Carroll 6, B Glynn 7; R Munnelly 8, E Lowry 8, D Kingston 8. Subs: D O'Reilly 6 for Carroll (51), D Strong 6 for Glynn (60), D Conway 6 for Munnelly (63), N Donoher for Pigott (66), J Farrell for Kingston, F Crowley for Collins (both 72).
Carlow - R Molloy 6; C Crowley 6, S Redmond 8, M Rennick 6; J Morrissey 6, D St Ledger 7, C Moran 6; B Murphy 7, S Murphy 8; S Gannon 8, D O'Brien 6, E Ruth 6; P Broderick 6, D Foley 7, J Murphy 7. Subs: C Lawler 6 for Rennick (56), D Walshe 6 for O'Brien (63), B Kavanagh for Moran, K Nolan for Morrissey (both 66), L Walker for J Murphy (70).
Ref - M McNally (Monaghan).
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