Champions Wexford eased into yet another Leinster SHC final with an 11-point victory, 0-24 to 1-10, over a game Laois side in the opening semi-final at Croke Park today.
The underdogs certainly gave Wexford a fright in the opening quarter, but once the holders found their feet they were in a different class and were far from flattered by their winning margin.
With their defence superb, after some initial jitters, and midfield on top the Wexford attack picked off scores at will with Rory Jacob top scorer with eight points but with wing back Declan Ruth in shooting form as he landed four long-range efforts.
Laois got off to a flying start and had the tonic of a goal after only four minutes when Damien Culleton took a cross-field pass from Tommy Fitzgerald and turned and blasted past Damien Fitzhenry.
Laois captain Joe Phelan had given his side the lead, but Rory McCarthy quickly responded before Laois struck for that early goal.
The O’Moore men were fast out of the blocks and playing a brand of fast first time hurling looked as if they might cause an upset and further scores from James Young and debutant Cahir Healy had them 1-3 to 0-2 ahead after 10 minutes.
They were to score only once more in the half, however, as Wexford gradually took control and picked off a succession of wonderful scores from all angles and distances.
Declan Ruth opened the sequence with a long range effort, Eoin Quigley hit a brace and Adrian Fenlon and Rory Jacob were on the mark as Wexford took the lead for the first time in the 16th minute.
James Young gave Laois the lead again but from then to half time it was all Wexford.
Rory Jacob (3), Declan Ruth (2), Red Barry, Des Mythen McCarthy were all on song as Wexford coasted to a 0-15 to 1-4 half time lead.
Laois did up their game in the second half, but could not contain the highflying combination play and free shooting of the Wexford attack.
James Young did shoot the opening score on the restart but Wexford hit three in a row with Rory Jacob converting two frees and Mitch Jordan hitting a splendid point for a ten-point lead.
Laois were unfortunate to have a Liam Tynan goal disallowed for over carrying but played their best hurling of the half in a ten-minute period with scores from James Young (2) and Tommy Fitzgerald leaving them just seven points adrift with 15 minutes remaining.
They could not maintain the effort and the second goal they so badly needed never materialized and Wexford again took control, with substitutes Paul Carley and Nigel Higgins getting in on the scoring act for an impressive victory.
Wexford: D Fitzhenry, D O’Connor, D Ryan, K Rossiter, D Ruth (0-4) M Travers, D Lyng, R Barry (0-1) A Fenlon (0-1), R McCarthy (0-1), E Quigley (0-2), M Jacob 0-1, D Mythen (0-3), M Jordan (0-1), R Jacob (0-8).
Subs: N Higgins (0-1) for Jordan, B Lambert for Mythen, M Mahon for McCarthy, P Carley (0-1) for Barry, D Stamp for Quigley.
Laois: P Mullaney, B Campion, P Cuddy, M McEvoy, J Fitzpatrick, D Rooney, S Dwyer, J Young (0-7), J Walsh, J Phelan (0-1), E Meagher, C Healy (0-1), T Fitzgerald (0-1), L Tynan, D Culleton (1-0).
Subs: C Coonan for Healy, C Brophy for Walsh, R Jones for Phelan.
Referee: J Sexton (Limerick).