KILKENNY 2-34 LAOIS 1-14
By Paul Keane at UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny
TJ Reid capped his return to the Kilkenny first team for the first time in 2022 with a perfect 10 points to help copperfasten the Cats’ position at the head of the Leinster SHC table.
The Shamrocks star didn’t play in the league and only came on as a sub in the big Round 1 win over Westmeath but showed no signs of ring rust with an impressive Nowlan Park display, striking seven of his points from placed balls in a comprehensive 23-point win.
In truth, Kilkenny will have greater challenges in the coming weeks as they have to play Galway, Dublin and Wexford in their remaining matches though they will argue that they could only beat what was put in front of them.
On this occasion, that was a patched up Laois team, severely hit by injuries and the losses clearly took their toll as provincial title holders Kilkenny bossed the exchanges throughout.
Reid’s Shamrocks clubmates Eoin Cody and Adrian Mullen hit 1-11 between them while Padraig Walsh had another strong game from his new position at centre-forward.
As for Laois, they will hope to be better for their Round 3 tie against Wexford next weekend.
The first-half stats told a tale of Kilkenny’s dominance in the possession stakes; 1-20 on the scoreboard and a whopping dozen wides registered also.
In defence of Laois, an already tough assignment was made all the more difficult by a spate of injuries which seriously limited boss Cheddar Plunkett’s options.
Captain Podge Delaney and key forward Ross King both picked up injuries in the Round 1 defeat to Dublin while Ben Conroy, Mark Kavanagh, Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher and Willie Dunphy were already ruled out.
It didn’t help Laois that Kilkenny, in contrast, finally welcomed back talisman Reid to first team duty.
Cats chief Brian Cody also handed recalls to Conor Browne, James Maher and John Donnnelly, all of whom, like Reid, came on in their 5-23 to 1-19 drubbing of Westmeath last weekend.
It was one-way traffic from the off and while Kilkenny were frustrated by their ever rising wides tally, they pulled decisively clear in scoring terms thanks to points from the likes of Padraig Walsh, Maher, Mullen and the influential Donnelly, opening up a 0-9 to 0-3 lead after 18 minutes.
Reid, Mullen and Cody then struck five points between them to stretch the deficit out to 10 points.
Laois were completely overrun and not even the deployment of Fiachra C Fennell as a seventh defender, roving between the full- and half-back lines, could stop Kilkenny’s march forward.
Fennell picked up a booking for a high challenge on Billy Ryan, the only one of the Kilkenny forwards who didn’t score in the opening half, perhaps explaining his substitution at the break.
Cody was twice denied goals, first shooting into the side-netting and then thwarted by goalkeeper Enda Rowland, though finally delivered in the 30th minute.
It was Paddy Deegan who boomed the long ball goalwards and Cody beat a couple of Laois defenders in the air before converting from close range on the right.
The strike appeared to kill Laois off for good with Kilkenny reaching the interval 1-20 to 0-6 to the good.
It got a little better for Laois in the second-half in the form of an excellent goal from Paddy Purcell when he slalomed through for a 57th minute major, before getting a whole lot worse as Kilkenny hit the throttle hard and delivered a series of points and a second goal from sub Phelan.
Conahy Shamrocks man Phelan finished with 1-1 in all while fellow sub Shane Walsh was lively following his introduction and almost grabbed a third goal for Kilkenny in stoppage time.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (0-7f), Eoin Cody 1-5, Adrian Mullen 0-6, Tom Phelan 1-1, Walter Walsh 0-4, Padraig Walsh 0-4, John Donnelly 0-2, James Maher 0-2.
*Scorers for Laois: *Paddy Purcell 1-2 (0-1f), PJ Scully 0-4 (0-4f), Cha Dwyer 0-3, James Keyes 0-1, Aidan Corby 0-1, Ciaran Byrne 0-1, Ryan Mullaney 0-1, Ciaran McEvoy 0-1.
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Paddy Deegan; Mikey Carey, Conor Browne, Mikey Butler; James Maher, Adrian Mullen; Walter Walsh, Padraig Walsh, John Donnelly; Billy Ryan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody.
Subs: Shane Walsh for Ryan h/t, Tom Phelan for Donnelly 46, Richie Reid for Deegan 49, Conor Delaney for Lawlor 56, Darragh Corcoran for T Walsh 62.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Sean Downey, Ciaran McEvoy, Donnchadh Hartnett; Fiachra C Fennell; Jack Kelly, Liam O’Connell, Ryan Mullaney; Paddy Purcell, Aidan Corby; Cha Dwyer, Mark Dowling, Jordan Walsh; James Keyes, PJ Scully.
Subs: Ciaran Byrne for Walsh 44, Eric Killeen for Corby 50, Brandon McGinley for Dowling 57, John Maher for Scully 69, Padraic Dunne for O’Connell 69.
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).