Waterford see off battling Laois to progress in All-Ireland hurling qualifiers

Waterford 3-23 Laois 2-21
Dessie Hutchinson of Waterford in action against Fiachra C Fennell and Sean Downey of Laois during the All-Ireland SHC qualifier at UPMC Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Dessie Hutchinson of Waterford in action against Fiachra C Fennell and Sean Downey of Laois during the All-Ireland SHC qualifier at UPMC Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

Waterford are into the draw for the second round of hurling qualifiers, but not without a blood-curdling scare.

In the end, they beat Laois by five points on a sweltering afternoon in Nowlan Park. But they contrived to surrender a position of a complete authority and briefly, with 15 minutes to play, looked like they might be cast as victims in the upset of the hurling year.

They face Cork or Galway in the next round.

At half-time, Liam Cahill’s team led by eight points. On a day for doing just enough and not spilling a drop of sweat more, it seemed as though Waterford had done all the required running.

The sun shone. Waterford had, it seemed, got enough of their scoring done early enough to avoid any angst.

But by the second half water break, Laois were ahead. Deservedly so too.

There was nothing fortunate or opportunist about Laois’ comeback though Waterford will ask themselves now how, given their lead and the volume of subsequent chances they created, it could have come to that.

After Waterford were denied a goal when referee Liam Gordon punished Stephen Bennett for a throw in the build-up mid-way through the second half, Enda Rowland launched the resultant free towards goal.

Cha Dwyer won it in a thicket of bodies near the Waterford square. Better again, he had the wherewithal to flick a pass to substitute Ciarán Comerford, who slammed home the goal.

Laois led for the first time.

It was just a week since ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett implored the Laois public to be more realistic in their expectations of the team.

They hadn’t, he pointed out, beaten a tier one county other than Dublin in relevant memory.

With ten minutes to play here, they looked as likely to win as Waterford.

Cahill’s team were unforgivably wasteful in the second half. They hit a string of poor wides and their attempts at opening Laois up for goal were hindered by inaccurate passing.

Little surprise then, that their redemption score – a goal from Patrick Curran – came via a more direct method.

A long ball was caught by Aussie Gleeson on the Laois ‘D’.

He quickly transferred possession in Curran’s flightpath and he made no mistake.

And still, it took a third minute injury time goal from Stephen Bennett to put any sort of daylight between the teams.

Paddy Purcell was outstanding. Having scored two massive goals last week against Antrim, he finished with 1-4 here.

PJ Scully was exemplary with his frees too but Laois just lacked a greater spread of scoring threats.

So in the end, Waterford did just enough and hardly any more. But not the way they might have envisaged.

Scorers – Waterford: Stephen Bennett 1-8 (7f, 1 ’65), P Curran 1-2, L Moran 1-1, D Hutchinson 0-3, C Lyons, A Gleeson 0-2 each, I Daly, N Montgonery, J Prendergast, J Fagan, D Lyons 0-1 each. Laois: PJ Scully 0-10 (9f, 1 sideline), P Purcell 1-4, C Comerford 1-0, C Dwyer 0-2, E Rowland (f), P Delaney, C Collier, J Keyes, A Dunphy 0-1 each.

Waterford: S O’Brien; I Kenny, C Brunty, C Gleeson; C Lyons, I Daly, Shane Bennett; N Montgomery, A Gleeson; J Fagan, J Prendergast, K Moran; D Hutchinson, Stephen Bennett, P Curran. Subs: D Lyons for Montgomery (30), M Kiely for Moran (48), P Hogan for Fagan (51), J Barron for Prendergast (58), S McNulty for Shane Bennett (60).

Laois: E Rowland; D Hartnett, S Downey, F Fennell; P Delaney, C McEvoy, S Maher; J Keyes, J Kelly; C Collier, W Dunphy, P Purcell; C Dwyer, R King, PJ Scully. Subs: C Comerford for Dunphy (33), J Ryan for Maher (35), A Dunphy for King (56), J Lennon for McEvoy (63), M Whelan for Keyes (73).

Referee: L Gordon (Galway).

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