Tipperary click into gear to blitz limited Laois
IF Laois chose the homely Rathdowney venue to maximise home advantage in this match, then it clearly didn't work.
Tipperary looked far more comfortable on the true running surface at the well appointed club ground. The hiccup Len Gaynor's men encountered in the first round against Offaly was seen as just that. Tipperary thrived on the shortcomings of Babs Keating's side.
The first half suggested the contest would be more even, although Laois were held to level terms after playing with the aid of a stiff breeze that was worth 40 metres extra on the puck out.
The sides were, in fact, level on six occasions in that first hall, but in truth the credibility of the Laois challenge was flattered by a goal off a 20 metre free by Niall Rigney. Their second goal was netted one minute into injury time by Ollie Dowliag, who finished when an Owea Coss shot rebounded off an upright to find the Tipperary defence off balance.
Behind the statistic of three minutes injury time in the first half lies a tale, a significant one that perhaps more than anything else explains the home team's slide.
Coming up to the end of the first quarter play had to be held up so that Declan Rooney, the staunch Laois centre back, could receive attention for a gash under his right knee. Minutes later Rooney had to retire and this had a hugely detrimental effect on the whole side.
The reshuffle saw attack leader Paul Caddy having to move back to centre back, with Noel Delaney coming in from the bench to take his place up front.
"We can't afford to do without players of Rooney's calibre," commented Babs Keating.
Gaynor also admitted that Laois were below par as a result.
But with the breeze on their backs for the second half, Tipperary cranked up a number of gears to look truly impressive. Late call up Liam Sheedy, who replaced the unavailable Brian Gaynor at left halfback, was something of a revelation. He scored two huge points, with and against the wind.
The attack was particularly well knit although Len Gaynor insists that they were made look good. True, there was a little extra freedom afforded, but the accuracy of all six was unquestionable. In all, Tipperary scored 1-19 from play. "It was encouraging after our disappointment against Offaly," said Gaynor.
The see saw first hall, during which Laois put it up to Tipperary with those two goals, not surprisingly ended on level terms, 2-6 to 0-12. "We did well to stand firm, never losing our composure," said Gaynor.
By this time all of the Tipperary forwards had scored. Declan Ryan was proving something of a wise old owl with his astute distribution.
The second half served to endorse the attack's true potential. Tommy Dunne and Liam McGrath were menacing to a Laois defence held together by the Trojan work of left corner back John Taylor, whose determination and skills often left his colleagues looking as if they were at half pace.
Brian O'Meara proved a highly effective attack leader for Tipperary, before he had to retire. His goal, struck off his left, 13 minutes into the second half put the issue beyond doubt. It was entirely fitting for Dunne and Declan Ryan to be involved in the build up.
Liam Cahill, after a sluggish start, got away for three points, despite Taylor's policing, and Aidan Flanagan was flawless with the placed ball, apart for hitting an easy one off a upright.
Aidan Butler was perhaps the best of the midfielders, despite a Laois move to improve matters in the area by moving full forward Owen Coss there in the second half.
By the 13th minute of this hall, Tipperary had pulled away to lead 1-17 to 2-6. A minute later midfielder Ollie Dowling had Laois's first score of the half. Their only other contributions to the scoreboard, two points from Joe Dollard and Paul Caddy (a 65) was a totally inadequate response to the continued sharp shooting of Liam McGrath, Sheedy, Dunne, Cahill and Butler.
Babs Keating had not expected much more from his players. "We have not a lot done, because of injuries," he said.
A high point of Laois's challenge was Taylor's 100 yard wind assisted point in the first hall, but on the day it needed a little more than that to unsettle the Tipperary machine.
Paul Shelly's display at corner back for Tipperary was heart warming, as was the central defensive performances turned in by Noel Sheehy and Conor Gleeson.