EVERYONE happy in O’Moore Park, then.
Both Laois and Westmeath made to it to the quarter-finals of the Leinster SHC despite the former’s 1-20 to 1-17 victory over the latter in Portlaoise in the last of the round robin matches today.
Carlow’s victory over Antrim meant both were secure, with Laois meeting Offaly and Westmeath taking on Wexford on June 7th in Championship proper, though that didn’t prevent the teams producing a breathless finale anyway.
In a fraught game, the belated calibration of Laois’ shooting and a Charles Dwyer goal saw the home arrest Westmeath’s growing momentum and turn a six-point deficit into a three point win over the concluding 20 minutes.
It took all of eight minutes for someone to score in an early passage that didn’t exactly take high marks for artistic merit.
Lots of tension. Plenty of sweat. But no great style until Zane Keenan launched a beautifully struck sideline ball over the bar from beyond a ‘45 metre line to break the ice.
It was, however, to be a nadir for the enigmatic Laois midfielder’s first-half contribution.
He ended it with four points wides in 35 minutes - one from play - but also contrived to hit seven wides out of Laois’ total of 11.
At 0-5 each, Westmeath took the initiative and embarked on a spell of four points in four minutes without Laois reply.
The sprightly Alan Devine and wing-forward Robbie Greville did most of the damage and at half-time, Laois’ squanderlust left them trailing 0-10 to 0-6 and in very real danger of not making the Leinster SHC quarter-finals.
When Brendan Murtagh fielded and tucked a goal just a minute into the second half, the signs weren’t great for Laois but inspired by Keenan, in particular, they produced a blast of more fluid hurling.
They scored 1-6 to Westmeath’s 0-1 within six minutes, Dwyer’s goal coming as a leveller after ‘Picky’ Maher’s fetch and only a serious injury to corner-forward Ross King and the ensuing delay stunted their flourish.
Westmeath finished with 13 men after Robbie Greville (straight red) and Shane Power (second yellow) were both dismissed in the final minutes but Laois’ win the result in Dr Cullen Park conspired to ensure both teams left with their summer plans still in tact.
SCORERS - Laois: Z Keenan 0-10 (7f , 1 sideline), C Dwyer 1-3, R King 0-3, P Purcell, W Hyland, D Peacock, S Maher 0-1 each. Westmeath: B Murtagh 1-2 (0-2f), R Greville, D McNicholas, N O’Brien (2f) 0-3 each, C Boyle 0-2, J Boyle, N Dowdall 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Rowland; J Delaney, C Healy, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, J Campion; Z Keenan, D Palmer; C Dwyer, P Purcell, W Hyland; B Conroy, T Fitzgerald, R King. Subs: S Maher for Conroy (44), P Whelan for Purcell (52), PJ Scully for Fitzgerald (58), D Peacock for King (63 inj).
WESTMEATH: S McGovern; S Power, T Doyle, G Greville; A Craig, A Clarke, A McGrath; C Boyle, E Price; N O’Brien, D McNicholas, R Greville; A Devine, B Murtagh, D Clinton. Subs: N Dowdall for Clinton (h-t), J Clarke for McGrath (46), J Boyle for Devine (52), E Corrigan for Murtagh (59)
REF: A Kelly (Galway).