Kilkenny 1-29 Laois 0-22
Kilkenny confirmed a top of the table finish in Division 1B of the national hurling league with a 10 point win over Laois .
Despite the deficit at the final whistle, Laois gave Kilkenny plenty to think about and the winning manager Brian Cody was full of praise for their opponents afterwards.
“Laois are a very good team and we were all very aware of the quality of players that they have and anyone that thinks otherwise is wrong.
“We wanted to win the game and we did win the game while at the same time we gave as many players game time as possible. It wasn’t a terrific display by ourselves but we are heading the table so we are happy enough.”
Regardless of next Saturday’s final round results, Kilkenny are top cats in 1B and will be content with their spring work to date as they remain unbeaten.
Kilkenny were in experimental mode for the game as they made six alterations to the team that defeated Wexford a week previous although Darragh Corcoran and James Bergin started their fourth game on the trot. Michael Carey, son of DJ, started at wing back and stood out.
Main marksman TJ Reid sat out proceedings altogether for the second time in four games and it was Bergin and Eoin Cody who stood up in the Ballyhale Shamrocks star's absence with 0-16 between them.
From the off Kilkenny looked in control as they quickly went four points clear with their opponents not getting on the scoresheet until the midway point of the half.
Kilkenny's maiden goal then arrived in the 21st minute with Liam Blanchfield latching onto a booming puckout from Eoin Murphy and although the big full forward was hooked twice he still managed to kick the sliotar past Enda Rowland in the Laois goal.
The Cats could have been further clear by the break but they had nine wides throughout the opening period and they had to settle for a 1-15 to 0-9 buffer.
Paddy Purcell got a couple of points from play for Laois before the interval and afterwards his side got a bit of momentum going with Kilkenny slacking off a little. The O'Moore County got back to six points at one stage and if it wasn't for Murphy saving twice from PJ Scully things could have been different.
For Laois it was a much improved display, despite the defeat, and while they are bound for a relegation playoff against Westmeath, manager Cheddar Plunkett remains optimistic: “We were competitive all the way through and we were missing 11 players who would usually be in the top 20 players in Laois.
“So to get some of them back on the field today was important. We are happy with the fight that was shown though and we aren’t a top four team that can afford to have that many lads missing with huge experience so there’s a lot of positives to take away from today.”
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Joey Holden, Paddy Deegan, Darragh Corcoran, Huw Lawlor, Michael Carey (0-1), Richie Reid (0-2), Conor Fogarty (0-2), Adrian Mullen (0-2), Martin Keoghan (0-1), Billy Ryan (0-1), James Bergin (0-5), Liam Blanchfield (1-2), Eoin Cody (0-11, 8 frees, 1 65). Subs: Tadhg O'Dwyer (0-1) for Ryan (43 mins), John Donnelly (0-1) for Keoghan (48 mins), Michael Cody for Carey (50 mins), Alan Murphy for Mullen (56 mins), Padraig Walsh for T Walsh (64 mins).
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (0-1 free); Diarmuid Conway, Sean Downey, Donnchadh Harnett, Jack Kelly (0-2), Ciaran McEvoy, Stephen Maher (0-1), Fiachra Fennell, Paddy Purcell (0-2), James Ryan, Aaron Dunphy (0-1), Ciaran Collier, PJ Scully (0-11, 9 frees, 1 65), Ross King (0-3), Eoin Gaughan. Subs: Willie Dunphy for Ryan, Ciaran Comerford for Gaughan (both half-time), Lee Cleere (0-1) for Conway (36 mins), Eanna Lyons for Collier (53 mins), Ryan Mullaney for Maher (53 mins), James Keyes for Dunphy (57 mins), Stephen Bergin for King (62 mins).
Referee: Rory McGann (Clare)