Maher turns screw as Laois dismiss Carlow
Laois 1-22 Carlow 0-14 Leinster SHC Qualifying Group RD 3
Tommy Fitzgerald's 46th-minute goal and a 12-point contribution from the excellent Stephen Maher at O'Moore Park were more than enough for Laois to maintain their march towards the Leinster quarter-finals.
The victors still have an unblemished record after two games in their qualifier group and never looked like suffering a setback, despite not being at their best.
Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett decided to dispense with the sweeper system that has served him well since taking over the reins last year in a bid to develop his side's attacking thrust, but despite the win, he wasn't entirely satisfied with how his players responded to the change in set-up.
"We were quite happy with the result, but there were aspects of the performance we'll need to improve on," said Plunkett. "Today we tried to change things around a little bit and just look at a different system of playing. Sometimes when you do that, it affects the flow of the hurling and the flow of the game. But scoring 1-22 in a Leinster championship match, I'd be very happy with that.
"I just felt that we probably got some flow into our team at certain stages and once we opened up a gap of five or six points, it was a bit of comfort to us and we pushed on from there. Certainly the goal pushed us out of sight.
"But there were a lot of aspects of our game that I'd be disappointed with. The transfer of the ball needs to be a little quicker.
"I thought the combination play in the forwards needs to be a little more precise in terms of moving the ball into the scoring area. So there's work for us to do."
The progress made by Laois and the benefit of operating in Division 2 was very evident as they were stronger in contact and quicker in the open spaces.
Maher was the best player on the pitch. He was excellent from placed balls, the Clough Ballacolla man was very threatening from open play as well when situated in the full-forward line for 20 minutes in the first half.
Maher had three of the game's first four points as the hosts pushed clear with the aid of a strong wind and it was the 13th minute before Denis Murphy – who recorded 10 points himself after missing an early opportunity from a free – got Carlow on the scoreboard.
The game was lacking in intensity, but that didn't concern John Meyler's men as Marty Kavanagh, Murphy and Andrew Gaule brought them to within two points of their more fancied opponents after 27 minutes.
Laois finished strongly, though, with five points from Neil Foyle, Maher (two), Patrick Whelan and Charlie Dwyer to lead by 0-14 to 0-8 at half-time.
The Blues had extended that advantage by one when Tommy Fitzgerald put the tie beyond doubt with a 46th- minute goal. It was a straightforward finish for the Portlaoise man from close range after being found by Willie Hyland.
From there, it was a straightforward finish for Laois, although Carlow continued to battle hard and, having fallen 11 points behind, cut the deficit to eight with a brace of points from Murphy and an excellent score from substitute Diarmuid Byrne.
Indeed, Murphy should have had a goal when driving over from fairly close range and had he done so, this might have developed into a contest in the closing stages.
Laois responded to the threat with the ultra-reliable Maher adding three points and it was a cruise to the end.
A disappointing day for Carlow ended in a dismal note with the sending off right at the death of Hugh Paddy O'Byrne, who was shown a second yellow card for a wreckless pull on Maher.
SCORERS – Laois: S Maher 0-12 (8fs), T Fitzgerald 1-0, W Hyland, C Dwyer, R King 0-2 each, N Foyle, D Palmer, P Whelan, J Campion 0-1 each. Carlow: D Murphy 0-10 (9fs), M Kavanagh, C Wall, A Gaule, D Byrne 0-1 each.
LAOIS – E Reilly 7; JA Delaney 6, B Campion 7, B Stapleton 7; J Fitzpatrick 7, M Whelan 8, T Delaney 5; D Palmer 8, P Whelan 7; S Maher 9, C Dwyer 7, W Hyland 7; N Foyle 7, R King 7, T Fitzgerald 7. Subs: J Campion 6 for T Delaney (h-t), J Brophy 6 for Dwyer (55), B Reddin 6 for Fitzgerald (62), 6 C Dunne for King (67), D Maher 6 for JA Delaney (70).
CARLOW – B Treacy 7; A Corcoran 6, P Doyle 5, G Kelly 6; HP O'Byrne 5, D English 7, R Coady 6; J Kavanagh 6, C Wall 6; P Coady 5, S Kavanagh 6, J Doyle 6; M Kavanagh 6, A Gaule 6, D Murphy 8. Subs: D Byrne 7 for P Doyle (34), S Murphy 6 for J Doyle (h-t), P Kehoe 6 for J Kavanagh (41), D Roberts 6 for Wall (57), C Lawlor 6 for P Coady (62).
REF – C Browne (Galway).