Kildare 1-06 Laois 0-09 (Laois win 6-5 on penalties)
Laois advanced to the O'Byrne Cup final after a sudden death penalty shootout win over Kildare.
The O'Moore men were at it from the start, setting the tone with a real hunger and urgency early on. Two composed Sean Moore points either side of a stylish Paddy Woodgate score had them leading 0-02 to 0-01 after 10 minutes.
Despite Kildare enjoying a physical advantage, Laois didn’t allow it to affect them and let their football do the talking. Lillis and Lowry caught the Lilywhites on the break before linking up brilliantly for a score just before the first water break, with Laois leading by two points.
With 23 minutes played, and completely against the run of play, Kildare had the ball in the back of the net through Daniel Flynn. A speculative effort from distance by Flynn looked to be edging wide but went straight over the head of Matthew Byron and into the corner of the net. It saw last year's Leinster finalists taking the lead for the first time in the game.
Despite sitting right back and allowing Kildare to dominate the remainder of the half, Evan O’Carroll and Moore kicked two excellent points in the space of a minute to leave Laois behind by just one at the break.
Billy Sheehan's charges began the second half exactly as they did the first, with superior intensity in their play and a real urgency once they carried the ball into the Kildare half. The Laois half-back line worked tirelessly all evening, winning a huge amount of breaking ball towards the middle of the field.
O’Carroll was finding huge pockets of space as the second half progressed and kicked two hugely impressive points to leave the sides level as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
Scores were few and far between in the closing stages, with both sides shooting some very early-season type wides in search of a winner. Lillis had the crowd on their feet in the second half and showed real leadership in midfield to keep the Laois fight intact late into the game.
With neither side able to find a breakthrough, an entertaining fixture went all the way to a shootout.
Laois converted their first three spot-kicks and a Mark Donnellan save from Brian Daly with the fifth penalty delayed their victory, with Woodgate and Flynn missing chances to hand the win to Kildare.
The tie was finally decided when Byron saved Paul Cribbin's penalty after Cormac Murphy had slotted home Laois' 10th penalty of the shootout.
Laois will play Dublin in the final this Saturday.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; David Randles, Mike Joyce, Tom Harrington; David Hyland, James Murray, Tony Archbold; Liam Power, Tadhg Hoey; Davy O'Neill, Eoghan Lawless, Kevin Flynn; Paddy Woodgate, Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Flynn
Scorers: Paddy Woodgate (0-5, 3f)), Daniel Flynn (1-0), Jack Sargent (0-1)
Laois: Matthew Byron; James Kelly, Trevor Collins, Alex Mohan; Sean O’Flynn, John O’Loughlin, Gareth Dillon; Kieran Lillis, James Finn; Brian Byrne, Eoin Lowry, Patrick O’Sullivan; Ross Munnelly, Evan O’Carroll, Sean Moore
Scorers: Sean Moore (0-4 2f), Eoin Lowry (0-1), Evan O’Carroll (0-3), Gareth Dillon (0-1)