Maher hits top gear to edge Laois past plucky Carlow
Leinster U-21 HC Semi-final
Favourites Laois were given the fright of their lives by neighbours Carlow in an exciting match at Dr Cullen Park last night before scraping home.
Shock winners over defending provincial champions Dublin in the quarter-final, Laois knew they were in a battle when Carlow opened up with the first four points of the game -- with a brace from Marty Kavanagh and points from Ross Smithers and Craig Wall.
Wall had a great chance of a Carlow goal in his side's first attack but one-on-one with goalie Eoin Fleming, he saw his kicked effort drift wide.
Stephen Maher opened the visitors' account on 10 minutes with a pointed free and by the midway stage of the half Laois were level at 0-4 each, before Carlow pulled away with points from Adam Kenny and Marty Kavanagh.
But with the accuracy of Stephen Maher from frees a telling aspect for Laois, they went in 0-9 to 0-8 in front at half-time.
Coached by former Waterford star Paul Flynn, Carlow continued to take the game to Laois and a Wall point midway through the half edged them 0-13 to 0-12 in front.
In the 49th minute, Wall made a penetrating run from midfield and when the ball ran free in the Laois square John Michael Nolan's goalbound shot was brilliantly blocked and cleared off the line by full-back Gearoid Burke.
Laois levelled through a point from substitute James Ryan before points from Pauric Lalor and a pointed free from Maher put them two in front. But Carlow never gave up and with left corner-forward Pete Shaw providing ongoing problems for the Laois defence, Marty Kavanagh pointed for Carlow as the game entered injury-time. But despite having a chance to level, the home side lost possession and Laois were through.
Scorers -- Laois: S Maher 0-8 (0-7f), B Reddin 0-2, D Freeman, W Dunphy, P Lalor, N Foyle, J Ryan 0-1 each. Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-5 (0-3f), A Kenny, C Wall 0-2 each, D English ('65'), R Smithers, J M Nolan, D Roberts, P Shaw 0-1 each.
Laois -- E Fleming; P Flynn, G Burke, J Finane; J Fitzpatrick, A Phelan, N Unwin; D Freeman, B Dunne; W Dunphy, P Lalor, S Maher; B Reddin, N Foyle, D King. Subs: J Ryan for Lalor (35); R King for D King (43); C Dwyer for Reddin (56).
carlow -- B Tracey; B Lambe, C Lawlor, L Kinsella; J Corcoran, D English, J Doyle; A Kenny, C Wall; R Smithers, J M Nolan, A McDonald; D Roberts, M Kavanagh, P Shaw. Sub: J Doyle for Nolan (52).
Ref -- J Keenan (Wicklow).