A second half scoring spree from Limerick saw them run out four point winners in this Division 1B clash on Sunday afternoon, as Laois squandered a great chance for a famous win.
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Seamas Plunkett’s charges held a seven point lead at half time, and were full value for it after a very impressive opening 35 minutes.
A wonderfully worked goal, finished off by Tommy Fitzgerald in the 26th minute, had been just rewards for Laois’ first half efforts. They won just about every 50-50 ball going, and plenty more where the odds weren’t in their favour, as Limerick looked unable to comprehend the intensity Laois brought to the game.
The seven point half time lead probably should have been greater, as there were a number of chances which went to waste. Laois’ work rate didn’t slacken off in the second half, but a couple of poor decisions did cost them, as they were caught in possession as they tried to pass their way out of defence.
As Seamas Plunkett and his management team atempt to allow this style of play to flourish, they know that there will be penalties to be paid at times, and Sunday was a case in point. Against poorer opposition Laois may have gotten away with it, but not at this level, and it is another lesson learned for the players.
They will have another educational experience this weekend when they take on All-Ireland champions Clare, with the venue yet to be decided at time of going to press. If we have learned anything from this league campaign it is that Laois are becoming more and more competitive with the teams above them in the pecking order, so it will be interesting to see how they fare on this count against the best team in the country.
They will be hoping to get a start like they did here, as Dwane Palmer opened the scoring early on with a lovely effort from the right wing. Matthew Whelan quickly extended the lead with a superb long-range free, with Limerick finally opening their account in the seventh minutes with a point from Graeme Mulcahy.
That didn’t slow Laois down one bit though, and Willie Hyland scored a lovely point from 50 yards out, before Tommy Fitzgerald split the posts from way out on the stand side of the field.
Wayne McNamara and Conor Allis pointed either side of another Matthew Whelan free as Limerick got within two, but Laois were quick to pull clear again. John Purcell pointed on the turn 35 yards out, before Laois worked a superb goal. Stephen Maher started the move by launching a long ball forward, which Tommy Fitzgerald broke down to Neil Foyle.
Foyle in turn played the ball out to the elft wing to an unmarked John Purcell, while Fitzgerald had turned and sprinted for goal. Purcell eventually played the ball back to the Portlaoise man, and he rounded Nickie Quaid before kicking to an empty net.
Limerick responded with a point from David Reidy, but Laois had the momentum and quickly tagged on two points through Stephen Maher frees, with Neil Foyle drawing fouls on both occasions with strong play.
Conor Allis hit back with a point for Limerick, but Laois finished the half strongly thanks to a point from Willie Hyland, as a huge cheer greeted the players as they headed to the dressing room leading 1-9 to 0-5.
Limerick surely got an earful at half time, and they were much more determined after the restart, as Paul Browne pointed inside of a minute. Conor Allis landed a free moments later, but Willie Hyland provided Laois with a timely riposte by winning a puck out and firing over the bar.
The change in Limerick was noticeable, however, and James Ryan tapped over before Conor Allis missed a free that saw him called ashore. His replacement, Shane Dowling, would have a major bearing on the rest of the game.
James Ryan added his second point before Patrick Purcell and John Purcell both found the target to push Laois six ahead, but that was as good as it got. Dowling added two quick-fire frees to set them on their way to victory. Tom Condon kept the momentum going by bursting out of defence and pointing from distance.
Limerick got within one before pouncing for their goal, as Stephen Maher made a great goal-line block only to see the ball rebound to Dowling, and he swept home from close range.
Two more late points stretched the lead to four, and that’s the way it finished.
SCORERS - Laois: Tommy Fitzgerald 1-1, Willie Hyland, John Purcell 0-3 each, Matthew Whelan (frees), Stephen Maher (frees) 0-2 each, Patrick Purcell, Dwane Palmer 0-1 each; Limerick: Shane Dowling 1-3 (0-3 frees), Conor Allis (0-2 frees), David Reidy 0-3 each, James Ryan, Tom Condon, Paul Browne 0-2 each, Wayne McNamara, Graeme Mulcahy 0-1 each.
LAOIS: Eoin Reilly; Darren Maher, Brian Campion, Brian Stapleton; Joe Fitzpatrick, Matthew Whelan, Tom Delaney; Dwane Palmer, Patrick Purcell; Willie Hyland, John Purcell, Stephen Maher; Neil Foyle, Ross King, Tommy Fitzgerald. Subs: Conor Dunne for Delaney (47 mins), PJ Scully for Foyle (58 mins), Patrick Whelan for P Purcell (63 mins), Joe Campion for King (64 mins), Brendan Reddin for Palmer (70 mins - injured)
LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Philip O’Loughlin, Tom Condon; Paudie O’Brien, Wayne McNamara, Dan Morrissey; Cathal King, Paul Browne; Conor Allis, James Ryan, David Reidy; Graeme Mulcahy, Kevin Downes, Michael Ryan. Subs: Donal O’Grady for Walsh (half time), Shane Dowling for Allis (45 mins), Sean Tobin for M Ryan (66 mins), Declan Hannon for Mulcahy (68 mins)
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)