Late Mount Leinster surge decisive after 'savage battle'
M L Rangers 0-19 Camross 0-13 - Leinster Club SHC
The record books will have this down as a six-point win for Carlow champions Mount Leinster Rangers but it doesn't tell anything like the full story.
A slow-burner of a first half in Portlaoise was made up for by an exciting second period that saw Camross produce their best hurling only after wing-back Darrell Dooley was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card shortly after the restart.
Brendan Fennelly's Rangers side led by two points at that stage and would stretch the lead out to four shortly after Dooley's dismissal.
At that point the 2013 Leinster champions looked set to stretch for home but a rousing Camross revival kept them in the fight down the home straight.
The lead stood at four points on the 45-minute mark after Chris Nolan slotted a point but the Laois men made little of being down a man and would hit the next three points to cut the gap to the minimum on 52 minutes with the likes of Niall Holmes and Mark Dowling finding their range.
Mount Leinster Rangers had lost their way a little at this point as they struggled for direction up front after losing star man of the first half Denis Murphy and Edward Byrne to injury.
And when Camross got back to within a point again after a Zane Keenan free, the Laois men looked like they had all the momentum and it seemed like they could pull off a great escape.
However, with substitute Ted Joyce finding his range to hit three second-half points for the Carlow men, they were able to ride out the storm Camross whipped up.
In the final few minutes the extra-man advantage finally told and the Carlow men would hit six of the last seven points of the game to take a deserved win, including a monster free from goalkeeper Frank Foley at the death to ensure their passage to a semi-final.
"It was a savage battle but you don't come to Portlaoise and get a free dinner up here, you have to come and go to war," reflected Fennelly, who had a stint in charge of the Laois hurlers.
"The match lasted an hour and we lost our way for a ten-minute spell in the second half and put ourselves in a bit of bother to pull it out. We lost two massive players at half-time in Eddie Byrne and Denis Murphy."
And Fennelly admitted he wasn't sure what how ready his side were for a foray into the Leinster Championship after reclaiming the Carlow title.
"It was the first time a Carlow club team beat a Laois club team so it's a big day for the boys. First rounds are always difficult after coming off the county final, you wonder are you ready and in fairness the first half I thought they were outstanding.
"On the line we lost our way in the second half as well, it wasn't only on the field, it was on the line too, but we got it sorted out."
The game produced a stirring finish but it took its time to warm up. The first quarter was a cagey affair and for a while, it felt like a personal shoot-out between Rangers' full-forward Murphy and Camross star Keenan.
It took 24 minutes for someone other than those two to score but to that point, the pair had almost mirrored each other.
Both Murphy and Keenan were in good form from placed balls while the former grabbed the first point from open play on 11 minutes with a fine over-the-shoulder score.
Not to be outdone, Keenan bettered that five minutes later when splitting the posts from underneath the stand.
The Carlow men seemed to be having the better of the changes and when Chris Nolan broke up the Murphy-Keenan scoreboard duopoly to put his side two points clear they looked like they could put some daylight between themselves and the Laois champions.
However, Rangers ran up five wides and Camross were more efficient and Dean Delaney used the wind to good effect to grab the last score of the half and leave the minimum between the sides at the interval, 0-6 to 0-5 in favour of the Carlow men.
The second half was only six minutes old when Dooley was dismissed and despite Camross' brave battling they couldn't prevent Mount Leinster Rangers from progressing to a Leinster semi-final clash with Offaly champions Kilcormac Killoughey.
And Fennelly agrees that the fact much of his side have been through a successful campaign before should be a big help as they progress.
"Any time you travel away in a club championship it's difficult and we have to go away again the next day.
"It's a fantastic advantage, we knew coming here today exactly what it was all about and that was a big plus.
"We don't know much, that's the thing with this, you're going into the unknown.
"In the county championship you don't think of these things and we'll have a look at them now in the next week."
Scorers - Mount Leinster Rangers: D Murphy 0-6 (4f), C Nolan 0-4 (1f), T Joyce 0-3, P Coady 0-2, D Byrne, F Foley (1f), D Byrne, J Coady 0-1 each. Camross: Z Keenan 0-8 (1 '65, 5f), N Holmes 0-2, M Dowling, D Keenan, D Delaney 0-1.
Mount Leinster Rangers - F Foley; W Hickey, R Kelly, M Doyle; E Coady, D Phelan, G Kelly; D Byrne, R Coady; P Coady, J Murphy, E Byrne; D Murphy, C Nolan, K McDonald Subs: T Joyce for E Byrne (34), D Byrne for D Murphy (38), J Coady for J Murphy (45).
Camross - T Doran; M Phelan, M Burke, J Phelan; D Dooley, G Burke, D Keenan; D Delaney, D Duggan; Z Keenan, T Burke, L Burke; N Holmes, M Dowling, C Collier. Subs: A Collier for D Delaney (42), M Moloney for Duggan (45), A Mortimer for Dowling (54), M Collier for M Phelan (56).
Ref - J Owens (Wexford)