Laois footballers recovered from a poor start to take complete control of this historic first ever Friday night Championship match, deservedly beating neighbours Carlow by 3-13 to 0-12 at Dr Cullen Park.
There was high hopes among the big home support when Carlow raced into an 0-6 to 0-1 lead after 15 minutes with star player Brendan Murphy causing major problems for the Laois defence.
Carlow, seeking a first championship win over Laois since 1989, picked off some great points and matched favourites Laois all over the field.
But slowly the game turned in favour of Justin McNulty's side. They were dominant in midfield throughout and given that springboard of superiority it was inevitable that their forwards would get a good supply of ball. Ross Munnelly was a constant thorn in the home defence.
With John O'Loughlin and Pádraig Clancy ruling midfield it suprising that Carlow manager Anthony Rainbow opted to retain Brendan Murphy in the full forward line. When Murphy ventured outfield late in the first half he created trouble for Laois but he was again sited at corner forward for the second half.
Carlow, playing with the significant wind, had led 0-8 to 0-3 after half an hour's play and were full value for their lead, even if the trend of the game was by then starting to turn against them.
In the 33rd minute Laois broke through when left half back Pádraig McMahon soloed clean through a retreating home defence to crash home a superb goal. By half time Carlow’s lead was trimmed to the minimum (0-8 to 1-4) and their earlier composure was badly shaken.
Laois only took a matter of minutes to hit the front for the first time after the change of ends. Right half back Darren Strong levelled matters with a point out of play and a minute later the home defence was breached again with Laois left full forward David Conway finishing for their second goal (2-5 to 0-8).
For the rest of the game Laois prospered all over the field and it was a cruise for McNulty’s men as they piled on the agony to run out easy winners, with substitute Colm Kelly striking for their third goal.
Both sides emptied their bench, running in five substitutes each as the game ran out tamely with Laois in absolute control.
Given the attendance of 4,606 it appears as if the experiment of Friday night football may be a hit with the paying public.
Laois: E Culliton; P Begley, M Timmons, P O’Leary; D Strong (0-01), K Lillis (0-01), P McMahon (1-00); J O’Loughlin (0-02), P Clancy (0-01); B Sheehan, C Meredith, C Begley; R Munnelly (0-3, 0-2f), D Kingston (0-03f), D Conway (1-01).
Subs: C Kelly (1-01) for Kingston (49); D Booth for Begley (54); C Boyle for Clancy (63); N Donoher for Sheehan (66); S Attride for Strong (67).
Carlow: T O’Reilly; B J Molloy, C Lawler, B Kavanagh; K Nolan, S Redmond, T Bolger; J Murphy (0-01), D Foley (0-02); P Reid, E Ruth, S Gannon; Brian Murphy (0-03f), J Kennedy (0-03), Brendan Murphy (0-03).
Subs: W Minchin for Foley (46); M Doyle for Nolan (48); C Moran for Reid (59); S Mernagh for Redmond (66); C Murphy for Gannon (67).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).