A Kilkenny side full of new names got their Walsh Cup campaign and Kilkenny careers off to the perfect start on Sunday afternoon in John Locke Park, Callan as they found a way past their Laois in their opening game of 2022.
Despite the full-time score, it was the visitors who were in control for a large portion of a tight affair before the younger than usual Cats pulled away from their neighbours.
Laois began with intent and purpose that was too much for the hosts to handle as two Ross King frees either side of a fine score from Ben Conroy gave them an early 0-00 to 0-03 lead.
Shane Walsh and John Lennon then exchanged scores before Kilkenny centre forward Emmett Landy made the most of an error from Laois centre back Liam O’Connell to score the only goal of a surprisingly tentative first half.
It became a game of frees midway through the opening period as King and Walsh showed no sign of rustiness despite this encounter being their first of the year.
Kilkenny could not gain any momentum or control against Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett’s side despite fantastic scores from Niall Brennan and Colm Prenderville as Podge Delaney and sharpshooter King shared five points between them to give the away side a one-point lead at the interval, Kilkenny 1-09 to 0-13 Laois.
A sluggish start to the second half saw the game remain scoreless for six minutes before James Stephens’ Luke Scanlon ended the scoring drought for the large crowd in Callan.
Enda Rowland, Paddy Purcell and Jack Kelly responded for the away side to give them a slender two-point advantage with twenty minutes remaining on a cold and crisp afternoon.
Tullaroan free taker Walsh replied with his sixth point of the day before the goalscorer Landy twice pointed from distance but Kilkenny seemed incapable of matching their opponents intensity as Kelly got his second point in a matter of minutes to give Laois a 1-13 to 0-18 lead.
Rathdowney man Ross King continued to star as he got his seventh free and ninth point in total and Stephen Bergin got on the scoresheet soon after to leave the scoreboard reading 1-16 to 0-20 with ten minutes left on the clock.
That was as good as it got for the travelling supporters, however, as the home team finally gelled towards the end of the sixty minutes to finish stronger than their Leinster rivals.
Luke Scanlon, Shane Walsh and Conor Heary hit quickfire points to give Kilkenny the lead for the first time in the second half on the stroke of the water break, Kilkenny 1-19 to 0-20 Laois.
Thomastown’s Stephen Donnelly and second half substitute Robbie Buckley both split the post with excellent efforts as Kilkenny began to get a foothold in an enthralling encounter, Kilkenny 1-22 to 0-21 Laois.
Clough Ballacolla clubman Stephen Bergin led the charge for Laois but the Leinster champions went through the gears as the game reached its climax with Walsh extending their lead with a number of frees.
Colm Prenderville and Buckley both got back-to-back points for Brian Cody’s side late in the game to make it Kilkenny 1-26 to 0-22 Laois.
Although Laois got one final consolation score through Jack Kelly, their management may be worried with how badly they faded in a game that was there for the taking against an experimental Kilkenny team.
Next up for Kilkenny is a trip to Chadwicks Wexford Park on Saturday afternoon for their second Walsh Cup game with Wexford.