The Laois hurlers finished off their Allianz NHL campaign with a nine-point defeat to their dominant neighbours Kilkenny at UMPC Nowlan Park today.
Kilkenny 3 - 22
Laois 1 - 19
Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 5
The game was somewhat of a dead-rubber fixture for both sides as the knockout stages were out of Laois' grasp, and Kilkenny's place all but confirmed.
Despite playing into the wind in the opening half, Laois put it up to the Cats for large parts with Ross King and Willie Dunphy leading the line for Brennan's men. The half came to a hectic finish when Kilkenny's second goal arrived through Ger Aylward, but responded instantly to grab a lifeline from a Rowland penalty on the stroke of half-time.
They emerged for the second half and rattled off the first four points without reply, but the defeated All-Ireland finalists gradually pulled away and ultimately finished with nine points to spare.
Alan Murphy and Ross King traded early frees before the opening goal arrived six minutes in when Billy Ryan rifled low and hard past Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland.
Laois responded well with a King free, but the Cats would hit seven of the next ten points as they put some distance between the two sides - Willie Dunphy landing the two points from play and Ross King a free - by the 20th minute.
Ross King hit two in a row, one free and one from play, before Kilkenny sent over the next three from Ger Aylward, Eoin Cody and Billy Ryan.
Four more followed for the home side with a King brace sprinkled in between, before two goals arrived in injury-time. Ger Aylward struck first when one-on-one with Rowland, but Laois went down the field and were awarded a penalty when King was hauled down in the square. Rowland came forward and confidently dispatched the penalty to send Laois in trailing 2-15 to 1-8.
Laois came out intent on dismantling the Kilkenny lead and quickly set about it. James Ryan pointed just 15 seconds after the restart and Aaron Dunphy doubled up inside the first minute, leaving Paddy Purcell and King to narrow the gap to six-points with well over half an hour left to play.
Kilkenny slowly stemmed the Laois tide with young-gun Eoin Cody slotting 1-5 in the next five minutes, the goal coming from the penalty spot after Matthew Whelan fouled Walter Walsh en route to goal.
With the bite gone from the game and the result in little doubt, Laois finished strongly against a Kilkenny side that emptied the bench to hit six points in the final quarter. King (3), Eoin Gaughan (2) and John Lennon rounded off the Laois tally as attentions now turn towards the upcoming Leinster Championship.
*See Tuesday's Leinster Express for full coverage
Scorers: Ross King 0-9 (0-5 frees, 0-1 '65), Willie Dunphy 0-3, Enda Rowland 1-0 (pen), Paddy Purcell and Eoin Gaughan 0-2 each, James Ryan, Aaron Dunphy and John Lennon 0-1 each.
Team: Enda Rowland; Liam Senior, Matthew Whelan, Donnacha Hartnett; Ronan Broderick, Podge Delaney, Ciaran McEvoy; Fiachra C Fennell, Colm Stapleton; Aaron Dunphy, James Ryan, Paddy Purcell; Willie Dunphy, Ross King, Eoin Gaughan. Subs: Jack Kelly for Senior (28 mins), John Lennon for Stapleton (30 mins), Cian Taylor for Ryan (65 mins), Eric Killeen for McEvoy (65 mins), Conor Phelan for Fennell (69 mins).
Scorers: Eoin Cody 1-8 (1-0 penalty, 0-5 frees), Billy Ryan 1-2, Ger Aylward 1-1, Alan Murphy 0-4 (0-2 frees, 0-1 '65), James Maher and Martin Keoghan 0-2, Darren Brennan (free), Richie Leahy and James Bergin 0-1 each.
Team: Darren Brennan; Tommy Walsh, Huw Lawlor, Ciaran Wallace; Conor Delaney, James Maher, Darren Mullen; Padraig Walsh, Alan Murphy; Martin Keoghan, Eoin Cody, Richie Leahy; Billy Ryan, Walter Walsh, Ger Aylward. Subs: Luke Scanlon for A Murphy (HT), Bill Sheehan for W Walsh (48 mins), Michael Carey for J Maher (52 mins), James Bergin for Keoghan (55 mins).
REFEREE: John Keenan (Wicklow)