By Kieran Murphy
CARLOW followed up their decent Walsh Cup performance against Dublin when leaving Portlaoise on Sunday with an excellent second round win.
It is early days, admittedly, but what made this victory all the more satisfying was the contribution from some of the younger players. The Whelan brothers, Ciaran and Sean, Jon Nolan and Damien Jordan can take a load of positives from their performances while it was good to see Eoin Nolan returning at full-back after a spell where injury has been his constant companion.
Winning silverware breeds confidence so when Carlow conceded a goal within 35 seconds there was never a sense of panic. That score arrived when Stephen Maher was left totally unmarked 35 metres out. The pass was perfect as the left corner forward took control, made ground and easily found the net.
Almost immediately Marty Kavanagh replied with a free for Carlow. This was cancelled out by a Laois point but with Kavanagh landing two points and Jon Nolan also finding the posts the sides were level on six minutes.
Then followed a period of Laois dominance with PJ Scully registering two points, one from play and the other from a free. Carlow had scores from Ross Smithers, Kavanagh, Jack Murphy and Kavanagh but they were struggling against the home side who looked to apply a killer blow after scores from Maher, Aaron Dunphy and Scully gave them a little breathing space.
A goal chance came for Laois but the Carlow defence did well to shadow Stephen Bergin and force him to shoot wide as he desperately looked for space to get in a telling blow.
At the other end it was a Laois attempted pass which undid them as Jack Murphy intercepted and fed the supporting Marty Kavanagh whose shot flew to the top left-hand corner of the net.
Even though Aaron Dunphy replied with a Laois point, Carlow were lifted. There was no element of fortune about their second goal as Jack Kavanagh held his head to feed Ciaran Whelan with the scoring pass and the second Carlow three-pointer.
Before the interval Laois replied with points from Maher, Dwayne Palmer and Scully but a point from Ted Joyce narrowed the Laois lead to 1-13 to 2-9 at the break.
The third quarter ebbed and flowed. There was no shortage of good points. Kavanagh could have had a second goal but after doing well to beat his marker his shot from right to left at the town end across the goal flashed left and wide.
Jon Nolan was denied twice in two minutes when Laois keeper Eoin Fleming made two flying saves. Instead of deflating Carlow, they just rose their game. Laois had no answers and they fell away completely in the final 15 minutes.
The Kavanagh brothers shared four points between them. Ciaran Whelan and Denis Murphy also raised white flags. At the other end the Carlow full-back was water-tight and goalkeeper Damien Jordan mopped up any loose ball.
It looked ridiculously easy for Carlow in the end. Early season stuff, but good habits at any time are always welcome.
Carlow: Damien Jordan; Michael Doyle, Eoin Nolan, Gary Bennett; Kevin McDonald, David English (0-1 free), Richard Coady; Jack Kavanagh (0-2), Sean Whelan (0-1); Diarmuid Byrne, Jon Nolan (0-2), Jack Murphy (0-2); Marty Kavanagh (1-9, 0-3 frees), Ted Joyce (0-2), Ciaran Whelan (1-1). Subs: Alan Corcoran for Bennett (27 mins), Ross Smithers (0-2) for Byrne (11 mins), Denis Murphy (0-1) for Joyce (55 mins), Paul Doyle for Coady (56 mins).
Laois: Eoin Fleming; Donncha Hartnett, Matthew Whelan, Leigh Bergin; Jack Kelly (0-1), Eric Killeen, Ryan Mullaney; Colm Stapleton, PJ Scully (0-5, 0-4 frees); Aaron Dunphy (0-5, 0-1 free), Eanna Lyons, Stephen Maher (1-2); Mark Kavanagh (0-2), Willie Dunphy, Stephen Bergin. Subs: Dwayne Palmer (0-1) for Dunphy (11 mins), Conor Phelan for Bergin (32 mins), Patrick Purcell (0-2) for Stapleton (50 mins), Neil Foyle for Kavanagh (56 mins), Patrick Keating for Bergin (66 mins).
Referee: Shane Guinan (Offaly).