Laois’ bid to pick up their third win of this NHL Division 1B campaign was foiled on Sunday afternoon, as a late scoring spreee from Wexford sealed them a six point win.
Hurling Allianz NHL Division 1B Round 4
The winning margin was a bit harsh on a Laois team that was forced to play over half the game with 14 men, after Cha Dwyer was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident just before half time. In spite of that handicap, Laois battled on remarkably well, and twice drew level in the second half before Shane Tompkins’ late goal finally settled the game in Wexford’s favour.
Like all of Laois’ games this year, there were positives to be taken from it for Seamas Plunkett. The work rate is very impressive, and the panel are fitter and stronger than they have been at any time in the recent past. They have more to do on this front, but progress is being made.
The manner in which they kept themselves in the game was very encouraging as well. Despite being down a man and playing into a strong breeze, they came from four points down to level the game in the 46th minute. When Wexford responded to that by rattling off three points in three minutes, Laois gritted their teeth and got back level once again with 12 minutes left.
The effort to do all that was too great, however, and Wexford scored 1-5 in the last dozen minutes or so record a flattering victory.
Limerick now await in O’Moore Park this Sunday afternoon, where a win would move Laois further up the standings and avoid the possibility of a league quarter-final against All-Ireland champions Clare. Whatever happens though, Laois are assured of their place in the knockout stages, which will offer Seamas Plunkett and his team another high-class game ahead of the Leinster Round Robin series, which begins in early May for Laois.
If they can start any of those games like they did here then Seamas Plunkett will be a happy man. Laois, with wind advantage, flew out of the blocks as Neil Foyle tapped over the first point of the game in the third minute.
Patrick Purcell, making his first start of the campaign, added another seconds later with an effort from distance, and Cha Dwyer then added another from the right wing as Laois went three ahead inside of four minutes.
Wexford were surprised by Laois’ good start, but they settled into the game soon after Dwyer’s effort with a free from Ian Byrne. A double from Shane Tompkins then had Wexford back on level terms as the hosts found their confidence, and a Rory Jacob point gave them the lead for the first time.
Cha Dwyer again responded for Laois as he was making good use of the space he was finding on the half-forward line, but a Wexford goal soon swung the game in their favour. Jacob was involved, as his good work in the corner allowed him to set up Gary Moore in the penalty area, and he made no mistake.
Liam Óg McGovern pushed them four ahead soon after, but Laois steeled themselves and got themselves within one after 23 minutes. Again, Wexford showed an impressive ability to kick on and get scores when they needed them, and they pulled five clear thanks to a run of four unanswered points.
Laois’ misery was compounded when Cha Dwyer was then sent off for an off-the-ball incident, but this team have shown plenty of character so far in this league campaign, and Matthew Whelan showcased that in fine fashion. The Borris-Kilcotton man scored the next two points after Dwyer’s dismissal, and Laois trailed by three at the break, 1-10 to 0-10.
Wexford were quick to score in the second half to go four ahead, Laois soon hauled themselves back level. A ball in from the right wing by Stephen Maher broke kindly in the square for John Purcell, and he quickly whipped the ball past Mark Fanning.
A charging run from Willie Hyland drew a free, and Stephen Maher slotted it over to level the game. Again, Wexford reeled off a run of scores to pull ahead again, as they went three up. Laois dug deep and got level again, with two points from Ciaran Collier helping to tie the game at 1-16 apiece with 12 minutes left.
Unfortunately for Laois that would be as good as it would get, as Wexford again went on a scoring spree, with Shane Tompkins goal in the dying minutes the final nail in Laois’ coffin.
It’s Limerick up next, as Laois try to finish the league phase on a positive note.
SCORERS - Laois: Stephen Maher 0-4 (frees), Matthew Whelan (0-1 free), Cha Dwyer 0-3 each, John Purcell 1-0, Ciaran Collier, Ross King (frees) 0-2 each, Patrick Purcell, Willie Hyland, Neil Foyle, Tommy Fitzgerald 0-1 each; Wexford: Ian Byrne 0-10 (0-7 frees, 0-1 ‘65), Shane Tompkins 1-3, Paul Morris 0-3, Gary Moore 1-0, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Liam Óg McGovern 0-2 each, Rory Jacob 0-1
LAOIS: Eoin Reilly; John A Delaney, Brian Campion, Brian Stapleton; Joe Fitzpartick, Matthew Whelan, Conor Dunne; Patrick Purcell, Dwane Palmer; Willie Hyland, John Purcell, Cha Dwyer; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Tommy Fitzgerald. Subs: Stephen Maher for Foyle (half time), Ciaran Collier for Dunne (half time), Darren Maher for Campion (57 mins), Joe Campion for King (62 mins), PJ Scully for J Purcell (62 mins - injured)
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Liam Ryan, Matthew O’Hanlon, Bobby Kenny; Keith Rossiter, Lee Chin, Ciaran Kenny; Willie Devereaux, Harry Kehoe; Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Shane Tompkins, Ian Byrne; Rory Jacob, Gary Moore, Liam Óg McGovern. Subs: Paul Morris for Chin (20 mins), Conor McDonald for G Moore (46 mins), Eoin Moore for C Kenny (66 mins), Benny Jordan for Devereaux (67 mins)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)