Waterford avoid banana skin to get back-door run off to a good start
Waterford 2-22 Laois 1-15
Twenty minutes into this hurling qualifier in Walsh Park it was 1-5 apiece and Laois looked like they might just be the big banana skin that everyone in Waterford feared.
A mistake by their goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe just 57 seconds after throw-in saw Neil Foyle get in for an early Laois goal and the visitors, with five championship games already under their belt, stood toe-to-toe with the Decies for the first quarter.
But then a powerful run by Kevin Moran that resulted in Shane Walsh's second goal kicked off an unanswered 1-5 run that gave Waterford a 2-10 to 1-5 half-time lead and that was the turning point of this match,
When Waterford kicked on to an 11-point lead in the second-half they looked home and hosed well before the hour but Willie Hyland and substitutes Ross King and John Purcell helped Laois pull the deficit back to six.
But Waterford's own bench strength and the composed freetaking of Pauric Mahony, who scored 0-11 (10fs), saw Waterford find another gear and this display, while still not perfect, was the sort of response they so badly needed to restore confidence after that heavy replay defeat by Cork.
Veterans Brick Walsh and Kevin Moran produced the leadership expected of them, Jake Dillon also impressed and the performance of wing-back Darragh Five in his first appearance of the year after a hamstring injury, was another boost for manager Derek McGrath as the Decies got their back-door bid off to a convincing start.
Laois' status as the most improved team in the country still stands and their six-game odyssey this summer will surely stand to them, but they clearly still have a lot to learn and their journey for this year, at least, is ended.
Scorers - Waterford: P Mahony 0-11 (10f), S Walsh 2-1, J Dillon 0-3, G O’Brien 0-2, D Fives, A Gleeson, C Dunford, S Prendergast & K Moran 0-1 each. Laois: W Hyland 0-5, N Foyle 1-0, M Whelan (2 65s), S Maher (2f), R King (2f) & J Purcell 0-2 each, J Campion & C Dwyer 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, L Lawlor, P Prendergast; D Fives, M Walsh, T de Burca; K Moran, S O’Sullivan; J Dillon, P Mahony, A Gleeson; R Donnelly, S Walsh, C Dunford.
Subs: S Prendergast for Donnelly (31), G O’Brien for Gleeson (51), M O’Neill for S Walsh (64), J Nagle for O’Sullivan (67), R Foley for D Fives (68).
LAOIS: E Reilly; J.A. Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, T Delaney; D Palmer, P Purcell; J Campion, W Hyland, S Maher; N Foyle, C Dwyer, T Fitzgerald.
Subs: J Walsh for J Campion, D Maher for Stapleton (both half-time), C Collier for Palmer (41), J Purcell for P Purcell (51), R King for Maher (54).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway)