Kerry miss out on a first ever Leinster hurling quarter-final appearance after Laois defeat
By Bill Cawley
Last Updated: 15/05/17 10:44am
Kerry missed out on a first ever Leinster hurling quarter-final appearance on points difference after they lost out to group winners Laois in Tralee by 2-21 to 3-15.
Two Shane Nolan goals before half-time looked to have set Kerry up for a crack at the knockout stages, but Ross King's 13-point haul and Paddy Purcell's goal means Laois will go on to face Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford in a fortnight in the Leinster SHC quarter-finals.
Unbeaten to date in the Leinster hurling championship qualifiers, Laois were keen to maintain their run in the competition, but in the lead-up to the game they were hit with the loss of key defender Cahir Healy and Ben Conroy, although Eamonn Kelly's side would still have fancied their chances.
And they got off to a great start when captain King pointed from play inside the first minute, although Nolan soon had the Kingdom level with his first free of the match - one of five scores he'd land from placed balls before half-time.
It didn't look good for Kerry in the third minute though despite a brilliant save from their goalkeeper Martin Stackpoole to deny Paddy Purcell, as full-forward Neil Foyle was on hand to finish to the net for a 1-1 to 0-1 lead.
But with Jack Goulding and Paudie O'Connor gaining an upperhand at midfield, Kerry soon steadied their play. Jordan Conway and Michael Boyle hit good points from play in the space of a minute, before Nolan levelled matters with his second free soon after.
Nolan gave Kerry the lead for the first time with a beautifully struck '65, but three points from King and a fourth from Purcell meant Laois pulled ahead by the 22nd minute.
But the loss of Paddy Whelan six minutes before the break really derailed Laois' effort, and in the second minute of injury time Nolan turned the game on its head. His first goal arrived in the 37th minute when he climbed above Dwyane Palmer and stuck past Enda Rowland, and less than a minute later he found the net again when Paddy Boyle found him all alone in the scoring zone.
After their bright start it was a huge shock for Laois, but King settled them with a free before the break, but they were relieved to only trail 2-8 to 1-7 at the break.
If the end of the first-half belonged to Kerry, the start of the second was bossed by Laois as they hit a stunning 1-4 without reply in the first nine minutes of the half. Three of those were King frees, while Sean Downey's point from play was followed by Paddy Purcell's opportunist goal in the 41st minute.
Kerry's hopes nosedived ten minutes later when Sean Weir was sent off when he picked up two yellow cards in the space of two minutes, and despite a third goal from a Michael Boyle free to close the lead to three points, Laois held on to finish as group winners.
Laois: E Rowland; L Cleere, L Bergin, D Palmer; C Collier, C Dwyer, M Whelan; R King (c) (0-13, 0-12f), P Purcell (1-2); S Downey (0-1), R Mullaney, P Whelan; A Dunphy (0-1), N Foyle (1-0), S Maher (0-1).
Subs: J Lennon for Whelan (29), A Corby (0-1) for Mullaney (h-t), M Kavanagh (0-1) for Downey (55), S Bergin (0-1) for Maher (63), B Corby for Foyle (69).
Kerry: M Stackpoole; J O'Connor (0-1), R Horgan, S Weir; J Buckley (0-1), D Dineen, T Murnane (c); J Goulding, P O'Connor (0-1); B O'Leary, M O'Leary, J Conway (0-1); P Boyle (0-2, 0-2f), M Boyle (1-1, 1-0f), S Nolan (2-6, 0-4f, 0-1'65).
Subs: M O'Connor for B O'Leary (8-12 blood), B Murphy for J O'Connor (29-34 blood), J Griffin for Goulding (58), M O'Connor for Conwy (61), B Murphy (0-1) for Murnane (63), P Lucid (0-1) for Nolan (67).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).