Nolan the Kerry star as red cards hit 12-man Laois
Kerry 2-27 Laois 1-19
Kerry hurled magnificently throughout and fully deserved to secure their place in Division 1B next season but they got some help from Laois along the way.
Laois trailed by just six points when they lost wing-forward Willie Dunphy to a second yellow and then six minutes later sub Ross Ring was shown a straight red. Laois were reduced to 12 when Willie Hyland got a straight red for an altercation with Patrick Kelly.
But it was not a dirty game as both sides went for broke; it was simply the power and excellence of this born-again Kingdom side who are really hurling way above what even their most ardent followers expected.
Kerry were tenacious at the back, with Patrick Kelly, Jason Diggins, Darren Dineen and Keith Carmody on top against their opponents. However, Laois received a boost in the 10th minute when a Kerry mistake around midfield resulted in PJ Scully feeding Stephen Maher who blasted the ball to the Kerry net.
Kerry responded with intensity as they went on a 0-7 to 0-2 run, with points from Michael O'Leary, John Griffin, Brendan O'Leary (two) Shane Nolan (two) and John Egan, seeing Kerry move 0-12 to 1-5 clear with Willie Dunphy and Scully replying for Laois.
Cha Dwyer then whipped the ball over the bar when it could have been worse, as Griffin, O'Leary and Nolan hurled like men inspired and Kerry fired over five more points to lead 0-17 to 1-8 at half-time, with Nolan scoring 0-7 in that opening half.
Laois hit the ground running at start of the second half with early points from Enda Rowland (free) and Willie Hyland but Kerry struck for a crucial goal in the 40th minute, when Darren Dineen broke up a Laois attack and played the ball long to Jack Goulding who set up John Egan for a superb goal.
Then disaster for Laois as they lost two players in the space of seven minutes when Dunphy was sent off in the 46th minute and then King saw red in the 53rd minute. Kerry were now leading 1-20 to 1-14 and they assumed complete control, with a succession of points before John Egan pounced for a Kerry goal in the 63rd minute and Kerry cruised to victory in a testy final 10 minutes.
So Kerry will see it as justice being done as they stay in Division 1B next year while Laois have a trap door game next weekend against Westmeath to stay up.
Scorers - Kerry: S Nolan 1-9 (6f), J Egan 1-6, M O'Leary 0-3, J Griffin, B O'Leary, J Goulding, M Boyle 0-2 each, C Harty 0-1; Laois: PJ Scully 0-7 (3f, 1 '65), C Dwyer 0-4, S Maher 1-1, C Healy, W Hyland 0-2 each, W Dunphy, P Purcell, E Rowland (f) 0-1 each.
Kerry: A McCabe; B Murphy, P Kelly, K Carmody; J Diggins, D Dineen, T Murnane; J Griffin, D Collins; B O'Leary, M O'Leary, S Nolan; J Conway, M Boyle, J Egan. Subs: J Goulding for J Conway (h-t), T Casey for D Collins (43), C Harty for B O'Leary (56), B Brosnan for J Diggins (64), J O'Connor for J Egan (64).
Laois: E Rowland; T Delaney, D Maher, C Healy; L Bergin, M Whelan, R Mullaney; P Purcell, C Stapleton; C Dwyer, S Maher, W Dunphy; J Lennon, W Hyland, PJ Scully. Subs: N Foyle for M Whelan (22), J Phelan for T Delaney (44), R King for J Lennon (48), B Reddin for L Bergin (66).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny)
Sunday Indo Sport