Kilkenny set up a Walsh Cup final date with Dublin thanks to this hard-fought win over Laois on Sunday morning.
A late scoring spree gave the scoreboard a more favourable look for the winners, but they failed to shake off a stubborn Laois side for much of the game. Richie Hogan was the scorer-in-chief for the Cats, who fielded a much changed team from the one which started in the win over NUIG.
Just over a year ago a weakened Kilkenny side lost out to Laois in the Walsh Cup Shield, but Brian Cody seemed intent on there being no repeat of that result this time around. A half back line of Tommy Walsh, Jackie Tyrrell and JJ Delaney certainly pointed to a team selection which was sent out to quell any optimism from the home side.
Kilkenny were the first to draw blood on the day, Richie Hogan firing over a point from 30 yards out. Aidan Fogarty tagged on another within a minute, before he then pounced for the game's first goal as a save from Laois 'keeper Paddy Mullaney rebounded into his path, and he flicked it into an empty net.
Laois finally found their feet ten minutes in as Willie Hyland pointed a '65 and midfielder Sean Bourke fired over the bar after a storming run through the Kilkenny defence.
The visitors began to flex their muscles after that, and with their half-back line dominating on the Laois puckout, they had opened up a 1-6 to 0-4 lead before Richie Hogan raced clear for their second goal. Trailing by eight points, Laois responded well to the setback, and within a minute corner forward John Brophy stole in behind the Kilkenny defence, and holding off a challenge from Paul Murphy, fired a one-handed shot past David Herrity. Laois couldn't follow up with any further scores, and points for Kilkenny from Michael Fennelly and Aidan Fogarty saw them lead by double scores at the break, 2-8 to 1-4.
A Willie Hyland free early in the second half had Laois back to within six, and they hung on to Kilkenny's coat tails for most of the game. Richie Hogan kept stretching their lead, but he had little support from the rest of the forward line, with scores hard earned in a scrappy second half.
Kilkenny never really looked like losing, but a late goal from Hogan and a brace of points from Colin Fennelly capped a deserved win for Brian Cody's men.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Richie Hogan 2-6 (0-3 frees, 0-1 65), Aidan Fogarty 1-2, Colin Fennelly, Paddy Hogan (one 65) 0-2 each, John Mulhall, Michael Fennelly, Eoin Larkin, Matthew Ruth 0-1 each
Scorers for Laois: Willie Hyland 0-7 (0-4 frees, 0-1 65), John Brophy 1-0, Sean Bourke 0-2
KILKENNY: D Herrity; P Murphy, J Dalton, C Fogarty; T Walsh, J Tyrrell, JJ Delaney; M Fennelly, P Hogan; R Hogan, M Rice, J Mulhall; C Fennelly, E Larkin, A Fogarty. Subs: M Ruth for Mulhall (52 mins), PJ Delaney for JJ Delaney (52 mins), E Brennan for A Fogarty (57 mins)
LAOIS: P Mullaney; B Smith, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, C Dunne; J Walsh, S Bourke; B Dunne, O Houlihan, W Hyland; J Purcell, T Fitzgerald, J Brophy. Subs: N Foyle for Houlihan (43 mins), JA Delaney for C Dunne (43 mins), E Reilly for Mullaney (49 mins), R Gill for Fitzgerald (57 mins), B Galvin for Stapleton (64 mins)
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath)