Allianz HL: Laois comeback foils Westmeath in relegation play-off
Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Relegation Play-Off
LAOIS 1-27 WESTMEATH 0-27
By Rory Delaney at MW Hire O'Moore Park
A brilliant display from PJ Scully saw the Laois senior hurlers retain their NHL Division 1 status after dramatic win over Westmeath tonight.
The Borris-Kilcotton man hit 0-17, a new record total in the league for a Laois player, to help Cheddar Plunkett’s men reel in Westmeath and eventually win the game.
Westmeath had been nine in front at one stage of the first half, but the loss of Aaron Craig before half time ón a straight red card proved crucial.
The game started at a frenetic pace, with Paddy Purcell knocking over a point after just 15 seconds to give Laois the lead. Niall O'Brien had levelled proceedings before a minute had elapsed, and that set the tone for the opening quarter.
Cha Dwyer hit a quickfire brace, the first a brilliant effort from out on the left wing, before PJ Scully had a chance of a goal only to see his effort flash over Noel Conaty's crossbar. That still put Laois three ahead after just four minutes, but they couldn't keep the pace up.
Killian Doyle got a point back for Westmeath to steady the ship, and the slowly took control after that. Scully landed a 65 for Laois but Doyle, O'Brien and Aonghus Clarke all hit the target for Westmeath to draw them level by the 11th minute.
With the wind at their backs Westmeath set the pace, and Laois struggled to live with them. Doyle (free) and Scully (65) traded scores before Westmeath went on a run of eight unanswered points, with the Laois defence overwhelmed and unable to get a footing in the game.
Doyle got them on the move with four on the trot, two each from play and frees, before Niall Mitchell and Ciaran Doyle made it a six point lead. Unable to respond, Laois just fell further behind as Ciaran Doyle and Joey Boyle made it 0-14 to 0-6, PJ Scully finally breaking the run of scores with a pointed free for Laois.
Westmeath, as they had been doing, replied with interest as Niall O'Brien got his fourth of the half and Doyle got another, before Laois were thrown a lifeline. Cha Dwyer's shot for a point held up in the wind, and Ross King beat Noel Conaty to the dropping ball before tapping to an empty net.
Westmeath almost responded with a goal of their own within a minute, as David Glennon was played in on the left wing, but Enda Rowland made a stunning point-blank save, Cillian Doyle pointing the resulting 65.
Laois needed to finish the half strongly but were given another boost in the form of Westmeath going down to 14 men, when Aaron Craig was sent off for stamping on Cha Dwyer when he was on the ground. PJ Scully and Ciaran Doyle traded points after that to leave Laois, outplayed for most of the half, just six behind and man up at 0-18 to 1-9 at the interval.
Laois started the second half strongly, getting with three after four minutes, but Westmeath settled down and went six up again. Laois needed to find some form and Scully was the one who held his nerve.
Laois went ón a run of a seven points without reply with Scully hitting six of them, and Westmeath saw their lead wiped out. WIth the sides level and normal time almost up, Willie Dunphy and Jack Kelly (2) pointed to put Laois three ahead, and seemingly home and hose.
However, in one final twist, David Glennon earned Westmeath a penalty in added time. Derek McNicholas stood up to take it but his effort blazed over the bar, and a late Scully free put the seal on a dramatic win for Laois.
Scorers for Laois: PJ Scully 0-17 (0-10 frees, 0-4 65s), Ross King 1-2, Cha Dwyer 0-3, Willie Dunphy 0-2, Jack Kelly 0-2, Paddy Purcell 0-1.
Scorers for Westmeath: Killian Doyle 0-11 (0-7 frees, 0-1 65), Niall O'Brien 0-7, Derek McNicholas 0-3 (0-1 penalty), Ciaran Doyle 0-2, Niall Mitchell 0-1, Joey Boyle 0-1, Kevin Regan 0-1, Aonghus Clarke 0-1.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Donnchadh Hartnett, Matthew Whelan, Sean Downey; Podge Delaney, Ciaran McEvoy, Fiachra C Fennell; James Keyes, Jack Kelly; Paddy Purcell, Charles Dwyer, Ciaran Collier; Willie Dunphy, PJ Scully, Ross King. Subs: Aaron Dunphy for Collier (29 mins), James Ryan for Whelan (half time), Ciaran Comerford for Keyes (58 mins), Eoin Gaughan for Dunphy (70 mins), John Lennon for Purcell (73 mins)
WESTMEATH: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Gallagher, Conor Shaw; Aaron Craig, Tommy Doyle, Aonghus Clarke; Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville; David Glennon, Killian Doyle, Joey Boyle; Ciaran Doyle, Niall O’Brien, Niall Mitchell. Subs: Kevin Regan for C Boyle (half time), Josh Coll for J Boyle (half time), Derek McNicholas for C Doyle (49 mins), Shane Clavin for Shaw (56 mins), Darragh Clinton for Coll (66 mins), Shane Williams for K Doyle (72 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)