Laois end 43-year wait for championship win over Offaly

Recent turmoil put behind them as Cheddar Plunkett’s men set up semi-final with Galway

Laois 29 Offaly 21

Laois manager Séamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett played down any effect his resignation and return may have had on his side’s performance as they claimed a first hurling championship win over Offaly since 1972 at O’Moore Park yesterday.

Plunkett’s side will now meet Galway in the Leinster semi-final later this month but the experienced manager wasn’t biting on the idea that the perceived turmoil of the last 10 days may have had a positive effect on his team.

Mature men

“I don’t think so. Regardless of what happened this week, we would have got that [performance],” said Plunkett after the eight-point win.

“These are serious, mature men and they take these things in their stride. They know what’s going on and that this wasn’t toys-out-of-the-pram stuff.

“The issues of the past week were simply about Laois hurling wanting a top-quality culture and preparation, day in day out, morning noon and night.

“That’s where we need to be if we are ambitious. This issue wasn’t about discipline, about people being in a nightclub or a pub or anything. It was purely about Laois wanting a top-quality culture, in absolutely everything we do.

“It was pretty clear today in terms of the performance that that is what it is about. The issue is closed now, it’s over and the team pushes on. It’s encouraging, that’s all I’ll say.”

To many Laois people this was more than just a Leinster quarter-final – it was about restoring some pride against neighbours who have beaten them in their past 16 championship meetings.

Worked a treat

Under Plunkett, Laois generally play with a sweeper, but it was a tactic that did not seem to be working well in the opening half.

But once Laois found their way, it worked a treat. Not only did it snuff out the threat of players like Joe Bergin and Shane Dooley, it also opened up space for the forwards to hit some scores.

Offaly opened up a four-point gap by the 25th minute, with Shane Dooley leading the way as the visitors pushed and probed to good effect.

However, Laois found their rhythm and upped the pace to rattle off eight points without reply from Zane Keenan (three), Cha Dwyer (two), Eoin Reilly and Willie Hyland (two) to go in at half-time leading 0-14 to 0-10.

Denied a goal

Laois continued to control the middle of the park in the second half and when

Tommy Fitzgerald

was denied a goal by Offaly goalkeeper

James Dempsey

, Hyland was on hand to point the clearance.

Keenan then scored one of the points of the game when he split the posts with a sideline cut from a metre inside the 65.

Laois now held a seven-point advantage with 57 minutes gone and they weren’t in the mood to relinquish it.

Dooley and Maher exchanged points but three scores on the trot from Keenan, Dwyer and Hyland dashed any hopes Offaly harboured of a comeback.

As Laois eased up, Offaly did manage two late points through Dan Currams and a Dooley free but even those offered little consolation.

LAOIS: E Rowland (0-1, free); C Healy, M Whelan, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, JA Delaney, Tom Delaney; Dwane Palmer (0-1), P Purcell (0-2); Z Keenan (0-11, five frees, one 65, one sideline cut), T Fitzgerald, J Campion; W Hyland (0-7), S Maher (0-2), C Dwyer (0-5). Subs: P Whelan for Purcell (64 mins), James Walsh for Palmer (69 mins), PJ Scully for Maher (70 mins), B Conroy for Fitzgerald (71 mins).

OFFALY: J Dempsey; D King (0-1), D Shortt, N Wynne; C Parlon, C Egan, P Camon; S Ryan, E Nolan (0-1); P Murphy, D Currams (0-4), J Bergin (0-1); S Dooley (0-11, nine frees , one 65), J Mulrooney (0-1), B Carroll (0-1). Subs: Killian Kiely (0-1) for Ryan (half-time), Eanna Murphy for Parlon (41 mins, inj), Sean Cleary for Mulrooney (43 mins), Stephen Wynne for King (60 mins).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford)

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