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O'Neill's heroics fail to reel in Laois

LAOIS' Eoin Reilly pulled off some crucial saves as his side withstood a Wicklow fightback at O'Moore Park and booked their place in the final against Westmeath.

Laois opened with a Matthew Whelan free and Reilly produced a diving save to deny Wicklow's Andy O'Brien at the expense of a '65' that Jonathan O'Neill sent between the uprights.

Laois then romped 0-10 to 0-1 ahead. Wicklow registered their second point through a 28th-minute O'Neill free and Stephen Maher's third point ensured Laois enjoyed an 0-11 to 0-2 interval lead.

Laois were 0-15 to 0-5 clear after 44 minutes but Wicklow, inspired by captain O'Neill who contributed nine points in total, outscored their hosts 0-9 to 0-3 over the concluding 26 plus minutes.

Man of the match: J O'Neill (Wicklow).

Scorers – Laois: S Maher (1f), M Whelan (2fs, 1 '65'), B Dunne, J Brophy, W Hyland 0-3 each, Z Keenan 0-2, C Dwyer 0-1. Wicklow: J O'Neill 0-9 (4fs, 2 '65s'), E Kearns, A O'Brien, C Moorehouse, R Keddy, M Lee 0-1 each.

Laois – E Reilly 8; B Stapleton 7, B Campion 7, JA Delaney 7; J Fitzpatrick 7, M Whelan 7, G Burke 6; C Healy 7, B Dunne 8; S Maher 7, Z Keenan 7, W Hyland 7; N Foyle 6, C Dwyer 6, J Brophy 7. Subs: B Conroy 6 for Maher (h-t), PJ Scully 6 for Dwyer (52), J Walsh 6 for Burke (53), C Dunne 6 for Foyle (60), A Collier for Brophy (70).

Wicklow – J Murphy 7; E Dunne 7, S Kelly 7, B Cuddihy 7; G Byrne 7, L Kennedy 7, P Keane 6; E Kearns 8, R Keddy 7; G Weir 6, B Osbourne 6, W O'Gorman 7; C Moorehouse 7, J O'Neill 9, A O'Brien 7. Subs: M Lee 7 for Weir (19), J Connors 6 for Keane (35), S Kinsella 6 for Osbourne (51).

Ref – J Heffernan (Wexford)

Irish Independent