Allianz HL D1: Kilkenny defeat Laois
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
KILKENNY 1-29 LAOIS 0-22
By Alan Hartnett at UPMC Nowlan Park
Kilkenny enjoyed an impressive victory over Laois at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Brian Cody made six changes from the side who defeated Wexford last week, including the 1-18 top scoring TJ Reid who dropped out of the 26 altogether, but it made little difference to them as this game was over by half time with the home side holding a nine point lead.
As Antrim drew with Wexford and Clare defeated Dublin yesterday, this Kilkenny win was enough to confirm top spot. Those results also meant that Laois had to pick up at least a draw to give themselves any chance of avoiding finishing bottom of the group ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Belfast.
But that did not happen and Laois now face a relegation game in mid-August against Westmeath as a curtain raiser to the All-Ireland senior hurling semi final.
The game started as so many have for Laois this season – with a string of wides. They hit four in the opening nine minutes as Kilkenny registered a brace each from James Bergin and Eoin Cody.
PJ Scully finally opened Laois’s account then but Kilkenny continued to pile on the pressure with Billy Ryan, Richie Reid and Michael Carey joining Bergin and Cody on the scoresheet to leave them eight clear.
Paddy Purcell and Scully finally ended the Kilkenny blitz – and Laois were actually unlucky not to have a goal instead of that Scully free as Fiachra C-Fennell’s run was halted illegally but the ball broke to Eoin Gaughan who rattled the net – only for referee Rory McGann to already have blown his whistle.
Kilkenny led 0-10 to 0-3 at the water break but Laois began the second quarter well with Enda Rowland and Paddy Purcell scoring either side of a Richie Reid point.
But disaster would strike for Laois on 21 minutes when an Eoin Murphy puck-out landed in the square and although Sean Downey initially hooked Liam Blanchfield, he recovered to kick the ball past Rowland and into the net.
The sides actually traded points from there to half time – Stephen Maher of Laois grabbed the pick of them from in front of the stand on the 65 as Kilkenny took a 1-15 to 0-9 lead at half time.
Laois were far brighter in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and actually outscored their hosts.
PJ Scully (4), Aaron Dunphy, Ross King and Lee Cleere all split the posts and while Kilkenny replied through Eoin Cody, Adrian Mullen and James Bergin, the gap was back to six.
Kilkenny steadied with points from Martin Keoghan, Conor Fogarty, Adrian Mullen and a free from Eoin Cody to lead 1-23 to 0-16 at the water break and end any fleeting hopes that Laois would stage an unlikely comeback.
Laoid did have two late goal chances through PJ Scully but Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy would not be beaten as Kilkenny collected their fourth straight win of the season.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Eoin Cody 0-11 (8f, '65), Liam Blanchfield 1-2, James Bergin 0-5, Conor Fogarty 0-2, Adrian Mullen 0-2, Richie Reid 0-2, Billy Ryan 0-1, Michael Carey 0-1, Martin Keoghan 0-1, John Donnelly 0-1, Tadhg O’Dwyer 0-1
Scorers for Laois: PJ Scully 0-11 (9f, '65), Ross King 0-3, Jack Kelly 0-2, Paddy Purcell 0-2, Enda Rowland 0-1 (1f), Stephen Maher 0-1, Aaron Dunphy 0-1, Lee Cleere 0-1
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Paddy Deegan, Joey Holden; Darragh Corcoran, Huw Lawlor, Michael Carey; Richie Reid, Conor Fogarty; Adrian Mullen, Martin Keoghan, Billy Ryan; James Bergin, Liam Blanchfield, Eoin Cody.
Subs: Tadhg O’Dwyer for Billy Ryan (43), John Donnelly for Martin Keoghan (48), Michael Cody for Michael Carey (50), Alan Murphy for Adrian Mullen (56), Padraig Walsh for Tommy Walsh (64).
Laois: Enda Rowland; Diarmaid Conway, Sean Downey, Donnchadh Hartnett; Jack Kelly, Ciaran McEvoy, Stephen Maher; Fiachra C-Fennell, Paddy Purcell; James Ryan, Aaron Dunphy, Ciaran Collier; PJ Scully, Ross King, Eoin Gaughan.
Subs: Ciaran Comerford for Eoin Gaughan and Willie Dunphy for James Ryan (both ht), Lee Cleere for Diarmaid Conway (37), Eanna Lyons for Ciaran Collier and Ryan Mullaney for Stephen Maher (both 53), James Keyes for Aaron Dunphy (57), Stephen Bergin for Ross King (61).
REFEREE: Rory McGann (Clare).