Laois and Westmeath advance to Leinster hurling quarter-finals
Laois and Westmeath have qualified for the Leinster hurling quarter-finals in which they will meet Wexford and Offaly respectively in two weeks’ time.
As expected Laois topped the four-team group after maintaining their one hundred percent record in the round robin series with a 2-21 (27) to 3-15 (24) win over Kerry in Tralee.
There were just two points between the teams in Mullingar with Westmeath beating Meath 1-18 to 0-19 which not alone secured the home team a place in the provincial quarter-final and a place in the All-Ireland qualifiers but relegated Meath back to the Christy Ring competition for next season.
Michael Ryan’s Westmeath team were the big winners as they had lost their opening two games against Laois and Kerry. But when it mattered most and despite having full forward Derek McNicholas red-carded, they beat their neighbours by a sufficient margin to advance on score difference.
Meath had whittled back their advantage to one point when a Killian Doyle goal for Westmeath gave them breathing space again early in the third quarter. They had a few scares near the end but survived.
By then the action was over in Tralee and Westmeath got the result they wanted – a Laois win. The home side had looked on course for the knock-out stages in the first half, leading by four points. But the visitors upped the tempo in the third quarter.
They reeled off three points on the spin before Patrick Purcell got through for a goal. A 12-point contribution – all from placed balls – from Ross King made a big contribution to the win.
Shane Nolan got two goals for Kerry while Mikey Boyle blasted a free direct to the net late on but it wasn’t enough to secure the draw which they need to finish in the top two.
So Laois finished top of the table with six points and will now face Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford in Portlaoise while Westmeath, who finished level on two points with Kerry and Meath but advanced on the basis of a better scoring difference face Offaly.
The full draw for the remainder of the Leinster series is: Quarter-finals: Galway v Dublin; Laois v Wexford; Westmeath v Offaly. Semi-finals: Galway/Dublin v Westmeath/Offaly and Wexford/Laois v Kilkenny.