Waterford survive almighty qualifier scare against Laois

Last year’s All-Ireland finalists made to work until the end despite being heavy favourites

Stephen Bennett scores a goal for Wateford in their qualifier win against Laois. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Stephen Bennett scores a goal for Wateford in their qualifier win against Laois. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Waterford 3-23 Laois 2-21

Waterford manager Liam Cahill says his side have a “big job of work” to do if they’re to go any further in this year’s All Ireland championship after scraping past Laois in Nowlan Park on Saturday.

Last year’s All Ireland finalists, who were 1-33 favourites, were a point down with less than 10 minutes remaining before goals from Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran got them over the line.

A Kevin Moran goal helped Waterford to an eight-point lead at half time, 1-16 to 0-11, but Laois came roaring back with a thunderous display in the third quarter.

Goals from the outstanding Paddy Purcell and sub Ciaran Comerford had them in the lead for the first time at the second water break - and a massive shock looked on the cards.

With Aaron Dunphy and PJ Scully on target Laois remained ahead as the game entered its critical phase but Curran’s goal made all the difference.

Waterford still only led by two points as the game entered injury time and were vulnerable to a late sucker punch but Bennett’s goal finally settled it.

“The whole objective coming down was to put our name in the hat for Monday morning’s draw,” said Cahill afterwards. “That is unfortunately the nature of the route we’ve put ourselves on through the qualifiers which you can see today is quite difficult.

“We gave Laois the utmost respect coming down, I can’t emphasise that enough. If we didn’t we’d have been caught today. . . realistically they were good enough for the win here today had lady luck gone with them.”

But with his side hitting 18 wides here - on the back of a poor Munster championship loss to Clare a couple of weeks ago - Cahill knows his side need to find form fast if their season is to be an extended one again.

“A number of players in key positions lost individual battles at key stages and we tended to switch off again. I mention it a lot. Our own errors invite teams on to us.”

Waterford’s Shane Bennett and Ian Kenny tackle Willie Dunphy of Laois during their qualifier clash at Nowlan Park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Waterford’s Shane Bennett and Ian Kenny tackle Willie Dunphy of Laois during their qualifier clash at Nowlan Park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

With eight in at the break, the gap was back to four after 42 minutes when Purcell hit the net, his third goal in two games.

Dessie Hutchinson hit back but two more PJ Scully frees left it 1-18 to 1-16 after 50 minutes.

Scully and Bennett traded points and Waterford thought they had a goal through Dessie Hutchinson but the referee brought back play for a throw ball.

From the resulting free, Rowland drove the ball into the square where Cha Dwyer caught it and laid it off to Ciaran Comerford who rattled the net - Laois now led for the first time, 2-17 to 1-19, as we headed for the second water break.

Waterford came back at Laois through Hutchinson and Bennett but Laois repelled them via Scully and sub Aaron Dunphy to hold a one-point lead on the hour mark.

But Austin Gleeson set up Patrick Curran for the decisive goal and Bennett made sure of it in injury time.

Laois manager Seamas ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett felt it was a game his side could have won - and insisted afterwards that moral victories are of no interest to him.

“I’m not interested in these moral victories out of losing a game like that,” he said as his team must now regather to face Westmeath in a Division 1 league relegation playoff next week.

“We could have won the game. I’m not interested in moral victories. I’m interested in finding out how we’re going to improve ourselves against these teams, learning and developing that and turning over some of these teams.”

WATERFORD: S O’Brien; C Gleeson, C Prunty, I Kenny; C Lyons (0-2), S Bennett, I Daly (0-1); N Montgomery (0-1), P Curran (1-2); J Fagan (0-1), A Gleeson (0-2), K Moran (1-1); S Bennett (1-8, 0-7 frees, 0-1 ‘65), J Prendergast (0-1), D Hutchinson (0-3). Subs: D Lyons (0-1) for Montgomery (28 mins), M Kiely for Moran (48), P Hogan for Fagan (51), J Barron for Predergast (57), S McNulty for Shane Bennett (59).

LAOIS: E Rowland (0-1, free); F C-Fennell, S Downey, D Hartnett; P Delaney (0-1), C McEvoy, S Maher; J Kelly, J Keyes (0-1); P Purcell (1-4), C Dwyer (0-2), C Collier (0-1); PJ Scully (0-10, 0-8 frees, one sideline cut), W Dunphy, R King. Subs: C Comerford (1-0) for Dunphy (30 mins), J Ryan for Maher (34), A Dunphy (0-1) for King (55), J Lennon for McEvoy (62), M Whelan for Keyes (72).

Referee: L Gordon (Galway).

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