Laois pull away in second half to reach final round of qualifiers
Offaly were level at half time in O’Moore Park but hosts won second period by double scores
Laois’ John O’Loughlin celebrates after the game with home fans in Portlaoise. Photograph: Inpho
Laois 0-20 Offaly 0-15
The battle for Middle Ireland entertained if nothing else, the Round three qualifier brought summertime, showtime and the best out of both Leinster sides. All the endearing qualities local rivals possess, once free from their provincial ties.
The ball striking was crisp and the intensity was full blooded. Both of the teams weren’t giving an inch and the one who couldn’t sustain the pressure was Offaly. They can hold their heads high, they were beaten by a greater execution of skill rather than heart query.
The Kingston brothers typified the execution, both were on their game from the off and tallied half of their side’s total, the brothers were the difference.
Both McNamee’s did step up, however the Rhode men were strangled down the stretch once John Sugrue got his troops realigned at half time. The Kerryman always had the hinge of John O’Loughlin and Kieran Lillis in the middle, both dominant but he got his side playing with greater width in the second half and that told as they steamrolled to a five point triumph.
Sated early on by the 10 minute delay to throw in. The supporters queues grew outside the grounds, the tension grew within. Both sets of players had to alter their warm up routines and let the nerves jangles for an extra while. The perfect scene with a sun draped background was set. This was their world.
Kingston, Paul got the ball rolling and his brother slowly followed him into proceedings. Donie landed a brace to introduce himself to the game and open up a 5-2 lead. However, Offaly borne themselves into the game with a stubbornness that gave the impression they were team with seasoned national recognition.
They came up with defensive stops, straight up defending stopping the attacker in their tracks and deftly stealing the ball. On two occasions Johnny Moloney stood at centre back and forced huge turnovers. The turnovers resulted in scores the other end. Bernard Allen was the one who profited twice.
The neighbours politely went in level 10 points a piece at half time, they were level on seven occasions in the opening period. Happy to play conductor all evening Niall McNamee passively ran lines but it would be his missed free kicks that would become vital and they needed to be accumulated in the games defining moments.
Laois upped the ante, on their own turf, they had enough, stifled and turned the tables defensively on Offaly in the third quarter. Out of that offensively they pulled their match winning gap to five and ran the bench and held out.
Offaly aghast for ideas needed their goalkeeper to bail them out with two frees either side of a punched Moloney effort. Those scores were easily cancelled by the Kingstons and replacement Eoin Lowry’s first touch.
Every score seemed to go over with ease for Laois and doubled up to make Offaly feel worse about their abilities. None more so than Laois centre back Robert Piggott sweetly landing a snap shot from range. Cue the Offaly supporters exodus.
Allen and Ruairí McNamee totalled their tallies but Evan O’Carroll one of the many strong cameo’s introduced by Sugrue had the final say with his second in front of a pleased partisan crowd, who now look to Round 4 with more than a hopeful glee.
Laois: G Brody; S Attride, D Booth, G Dillon; T Collins, R Pigott (0-1), P O’Sullivan; J O’Loughlin, K Lillis (0-2); D O’Reilly, P Kingston (0-6, 0-3 frees), M Scully; P Kingston (0-4), C Murphy (0-2), R Munnelly (0-2, 0-1 free). Subs: E Lowry (0-1) for Munnelly (48 mins), E Buggie for O’Sullivan (52’), E O’Carroll (0-2) for Murphy (55’), D O’Connor for O’Reilly (64’), S Byrne for Lillis (64’), D Seale for Attride (68’).
Offaly: P Dunican (0-3 frees); E Rigney, D Dempsey, D Hogan; C Donohoe, J Moloney (0-1), N Darby; E Carroll, P Cunningham; S Horan, A Sullivan (0-1), C Mangan; B Allen (0-3), N McNamee (0-3, 0-2 frees), R McNamee (0-4). Subs: M Abbott for E Carroll (49 mins) P McConway for P Cunnigham (55’), J O’Connor for C Donohoe (60’), P Cunningham for A Sullivan (68’), S Tierney for R McNamee (71’).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)