Westmeath senior hurling star, Robbie Greville, pictured with his daughter Aida, following the great victory over Laois at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday.

Keyes goal the catalyst as hurlers secure Division 1 status

Westmeath 3-24 Laois 1-26

A great goal seven minutes from the end of normal time from sub Eoin Keyes was crucial as a very committed Westmeath outfit guaranteed themselves Division 1 hurling for 2024 with a hard-earned win against Laois in a very entertaining contest, played in front of just 328 fans in pleasant conditions at Thurles this afternoon.

Scores came thick and fast right from the first whistle, with Willie Maher's charges looking marginally the livelier team in the early exchanges. Thirteen points overall in as many minutes had Laois ahead by 0-8 to 0-5 when Ciaran Doyle and Joey Boyle combined for the latter to flick the ball one-handed to the net for an equalising goal in the 14th minute.

The sides were still level (1-9 to 0-12) when Joe Fortune's troops took the lead for the first time in the 26th minute, the sliotar falling kindly for Niall O'Brien who advanced goalward before flicking it past Enda Rowland. Ciaran Doyle edged the Lake County ahead by 2-10 to 0-15 with the last puck of the first half.

Free-takers Killian Doyle (three) and Stephen Maher (two) shared the first five points of the second half. It continued to be difficult to separate two evenly-matched teams and they were tied (2-19 to 0-25) when the all-important third Westmeath goal came in the 63rd minute, substitute Keyes powering forward and unleashing a great low shot to the net.

With Killian Doyle off injured, sub Darragh Clinton showed great composure to convert a vital free on the 70-minute mark. Rowland came forward to blast home an injury-time goal from a free for the O'Moore County, but veteran sub Derek McNicholas' classy late brace of points gave Westmeath vital breathing space, ensuring that Laois will play in Division 2 next spring.

Scorers - Westmeath: K Doyle 0-11 (8f), J Boyle 1-2, E Keyes 1-1, C Doyle 0-4, N O'Brien 1-0, D McNicholas 0-2, J Galvin, R Greville, D Glennon, D Clinton (f) 0-1 each.

Laois: S Maher 0-8 (7f), J Keyes 0-5, E Rowland 1-0 (f), J Kelly, A Dunphy, T Keyes, S Bergin, R King 0-2 each, M Phelan, I Shanahan, J Duggan 0-1 each.

Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Conor Shaw, Johnny Bermingham; Aaron Craig, Tommy Doyle, Jack Galvin; Shane McGovern, Robbie Greville; Ciaran Doyle, Joey Boyle, Kevin Regan; Davy Glennon, Killian Doyle, Niall O'Brien. Subs used: Eoin Keyes for Bermingham (23), Peter Clarke for Regan (52), Shane Clavin for C Doyle (inj., 63), Darragh Clinton for O'Brien (66), Derek McNicholas for K Doyle (inj., 70).

Laois: Enda Rowland; Fiachra C Fennell, Pádraig Delaney, Donnchadh Hartnett; Ryan Mullaney, Ian Shanahan, Pádraig Lalor; Patrick Purcell, Jack Kelly; Aaron Dunphy, Stephen Maher, Tomás Keyes; Martin Phelan, James Keyes, Stephen Bergin. Subs used: Ross King for Lalor (39), Willie Dunphy for Bergin (52), PJ Scully for T Keyes (61), James Duggan for Phelan (68).

Ref: Sean Stack (Dublin).