Plunkett breathes sigh of relief as Laois hold off Exiles fightback
Laois 2-13 London 0-16, Leinster SHC round-robin
LAOIS escaped with victory after seeing a 10-point lead reduced to a goal as the Exiles turned up the heat under brilliant sunshine at Ruislip.
Seamus Plunkett couldn't have imagined the second half that transpired after his charges led by 1-10 to 0-3 on 30 minutes. Then, an indifferent looking Exiles 15 were badly off the pace and struggled to find their first touch.
By contrast Laois looked every bit a division better than the hosts, with Stephen Maher punishing London from play and placed balls, while Eoin Reilly's puck-outs opened the kind of space and returned the kind of scores that suggested a rout.
London had shown only glimpses of their ability in the first half, with Offaly's Eoin Kelly and Clare's Martin Duggan combining for the former to convert a clinical single. Thereafter, the Exiles couldn't catch a break as Laois, led by Joe Fitzpatrick, Matthew Whelan and Maher, exerted their will.
When Neil Foyle ghosted down the left to raise a green flag the disappointment on the home sideline was palpable. But, aided by the breeze, London emerged and turned up the heat in the second half.
Eoin Kelly gave the Exiles a footing when he converted a brace of early frees and when Duggan scored an amazing point the momentum had shifted.
Struggling at the back in the first 35 minutes, suddenly Stephen Frawley delivered an inspirational performance through the second period – breaking plays and setting in motion a number of London scores.
The fightback was underscored by a massive James Barrett free – the goalkeeper converting from nearly 120 metres. However, against the run of play Laois responded through substitute John Brophy, who beat the London net-minder when he was put through one on one.
It was a cruel blow for the hosts but the score failed to correct the balance and London resumed on the attack. By now they were dominating both possession and territory but failed to make Laois pay the price through a period when seven scoring opportunities went array.
PJ Scully entered to steady the Laois ship with a late point, but London pushed on again, Kelly reducing the deficit to a goal, and the sense that Laois may need the clock to save them was a very real fear.
"I thought in the first half we played some good hurling, we opened up the play, got some good scores, but we just completely took our foot off the gas in the second half," said Plunkett.
"But you have to credit London, they fought very, very hard to stay in what was a very important game for them and we didn't appear to be hungry enough in the second half to push on.
"I'm a bit disappointed with the second half but we came over here to get two points and that was what we got, so we are happy enough in terms of the game."
scorers – Laois: S Maher 0-6 (4fs), N Foyle 1-1, J Brophy 1-0, M Whelan 0-2, J Fitzpatrick, J Purcell, W Hyland, PJ Scully 0-1 each London: E Kelly 0-12 (9fs, '65'), J Barrett (0-1f), P Cocoman, M Duggan, K Killilea 0-1 each
LAOIS – E Kelly; J Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, D Palmer; T Delaney, P Whelan; J Purcell, W Hyland, S Maher; N Foyle, R King, C Dwyer Subs: J Campion for Palmer (h-t), J Walsh for Phelan, T Fitzgerald for Purcell (47), PJ Scully for King (59), J Brophy for Dwyer (h-t)
LONDON – J Barrett; C McAlinden, R Foy, C Hickey; E Cooney, PJ Rowe, S Frawley; D Moore, H Vaughan; P Phelan, E Kelly, M Lynch; K Walsh, M Duggan, L Hands Subs: P Cocoman for Phelan (38), K Killilea for Lynch (38), P Barry for Walsh (10), D Egan for Hands (50).
REF – F Horgan (Tipperary)