Eugene McGee: Meath have firepower to cause Dublin real damage
Mystery may be too strong a word, but Laois football followers would be hard put to come up with a better one. On Saturday night, for the second year in a row, their team was cut to ribbons in Leinster.
Last year, Kildare did the damage and this time it was a Meath team in full flight. As always, a few statistics shed more light than the scoreline and they show clearly that the Laois forwards did not have a clue about progressive attacking play.
For example, no Laois forward managed a score from play for the final 52 minutes of the game. Hard to believe, but true. Of the 10 points accrued by Laois, six came from placed balls, and defenders Cahir Healy and Padraig McMahon scored two of the four from play -- which means that, of all the forwards used, only Darren Strong and MJ Tierney were able to score one point each from play.
So, there really is no mystery about what went wrong. Fans will complain about Padraig Clancy not starting, seeing that he changed the complexion of the drawn match when brought on as sub.
There may be good reasons for this decision by the Laois management, but certainly by the time the changes were made, Meath had shut the door firmly to a Leinster semi-final meeting with Dublin.
Meath, by contrast knew all about scoring -- goals and points from close in and 60 yards away at times. They scored a very impressive 2-12 from play and three forwards -- Joe Sheridan, Graham Reilly and Shane O'Rourke -- got 2-9 from play between them.
With similar high scoring in the drawn game (2-13) and against Offaly (1-20) in the first round, Meath clearly have massive scoring power and will surely force the Dublin mentors to get back to basics in defence in time for next Sunday. Meath have scored 5-47 in three championship games.
Sheridan was the main man in this game and if you wanted to sum up what a typical Meath footballer of yore used to be, then Joe is the perfect example.
Very skilful, very physical in the best use of that term and aggressively competitive in everything he does, he cut roads through a Laois defence that seemed to open up like the Red Sea for Moses every time he set off with the ball.
Overall, Meath were far superior in every line of the field. However, there are some problems arising from this game for them, with goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke getting a straight red card, which rules him out for the Dublin game and reliable centre-back Michael Burke seemingly absent following a serious leg injury. Top midfielder Nigel Crawford may also be still unfit.
- A few media people, and some Laois folk, last week made reference to O'Connor Park as a 'tight playing pitch', implying it is smaller than some other grounds.
This is total rubbish because O'Connor Park is now full Croke Park size, having been widened and lengthened with the recent magnificent refurbishment of the venue -- which must now be regarded as the best in the country in every facility required for a modern medium-sized stadium.