Laois to bring back Begley after their Wicklow win
LAOIS 0-21 WICKLOW 1-11
LAOIS manager Tomas O Flatharta will have Colm Begley back in the fold for the O'Moore County's Leinster quarter-final clash with Dublin on June 8.
O Flatharta's hard-working side negotiated a potential banana skin in Aughrim to overcome Wicklow and move on to the next stage of the provincial campaign.
The Kerryman, who dropped Begley from the panel for yesterday's game due to the player's involvement in a Dublin championship match for his club Parnells in midweek, said the matter is closed. Begley travelled with the Laois squad for the match and will be available for selection against the Dubs.
"Myself and Colm had a discussion during the week about it. He understood where we were coming from. I fully understood the awkward situation that he was in," O Flatharta said. "He plays his club football with Parnells in Dublin but he's also a coach there, so he found himself in a very awkward situation. But look, it's gone now, he's still a vital part of our panel and he's going to be fully involved from now on."
Laois gave three players their championship debuts – Graham Brody in goal, Stephen Attride at centre-back and Robbie Kehoe at left wing-back – and O Flatharta was pleased with their performance. He also highlighted the efforts of his full-back line, Padraig McMahon, Paul Begley and Peter O'Leary, who coped well with Wicklow's main threat from stalwarts Leighton Glynn and Seanie Furlong.
Up front Ross Munnelly, Donie Kingston and James Finn caused problems for Wicklow, but the high work rate and extra touch of class, particularly in the second half, enabled Laois to close out the game relatively comfortably.
Billy Sheehan covered lots of ground in a sweeper role and Conor Meredith, ostensibly full-forward, roamed deep and tracked forward as the game ebbed and flowed. Their efforts won't make headlines but were appreciated by their team-mates and manager.
Laois might have made the game easier for themselves if they had availed of all the chances they created. The visitors had seven wides in the first half and six in the second, but they succeeded in converting more of their opportunities in the second 35 minutes.
"We had a lot of chances in the first half. We got a few points but we had a lot of wides as well. It was a matter of staying composed at half-time and taking it from there, and I felt they did that in the second half," said O Flatharta.
Wicklow boss Harry Murphy could be happy with his side's finish to the first half, as Paul Cunningham slotted home a goal just before half-time to put the sides level at 1-5 to 0-8.
Cunningham was one of six Wicklow players starting a championship game for the first time, and as the second half wore on the greater experience in the Laois set-up gradually wore down the Wicklow resistance. Home team manager Murphy had no complaints.
"We're hugely disappointed but going forward, we started six lads for their first day – the goalie, Aaron Murphy, Paul McLoughlin, Paul Cunningam, Kevin Murphy and Mark Kenny," he said. "They all put their shoulder to the wheel, so the future doesn't look bad."
In the first half, Furlong and Glynn had a couple of half-chances at goals but the Laois defence held firm. The start of the second half was delayed for almost 15 minutes due to an unfortunate incident in which a spectator was taken ill, and needed attention from paramedics.
An ambulance was brought on to the pitch at the side of the ground where the incident took place and after receiving treatment in the stand, the man was taken to hospital.
It was a sobering reminder that put sport in perspective and the stadium announcer spoke for everyone in the ground when he expressed his hope the man would recover. Once the ball was thrown in for the second half, it was down to business and Wicklow struck first. Furlong (free) and Rory Finn clipped over points to give Wicklow a two-point lead after 39 minutes.
That only spurred Laois into a serious reaction. They raided forward in numbers and between frees and points from play, they changed a two-point deficit into a three-point lead on a 0-14 to 1-8 scoreline after 49 minutes.
With just 20 minutes to play, the game was up for Wicklow, although they never stopped trying. Munnelly and Donie Kingston had their sniper sights locked on to the Wicklow posts as they kicked scores from a variety of angles and distances from play and placed balls.
This was no classic and much improvement is required if Laois are to cause any difficulty for Dublin, but they'll be all the better for this outing.
"It's always better when you have played a game in the championship. You get the feel of it, and that should help us going forward," said O Flatharta.
Scorers – Laois: R Munnelly 0-9 (5fs), D Kingston 0-6 (3fs), J O'Loughlin 0-3, K Meaney, D Strong, K Murphy ('45') 0-1 each.
Wicklow: S Furlong 0-4 (4fs), P Cunningham 1-0, L Glynn (2fs), R Finn 0-3 each, C McGraynor 0-1.
Laois – G Brody 7; P McMahon7 , P Begley 7, P O'Leary 7; D Strong 7, A Attride 7, R Kehoe 7; K Meaney 7, J O'Loughlin 7; J Finn 7, D Kingston 7, B Sheehan 7; R Munnelly 8, C Meredith 7, D Conway 7 Subs: E Costello 7 for J Finn (h-t), E O'Carroll 6 for D Conway (57), P Kingston for D Kingston (70)
Wicklow – R Lambert 7; A Murphy 7, P McLaughlin 7, A Byrne 7; K Murphy 7, P McWalter 7, D Healy 7; J Stafford 7, A McLoughlin 7; R Finn 7 M Kenny 7, D Hayden 7; L Glynn 7, S Furlong 7, P Cunningham 7 Subs: C McGraynor 6 for M Kenny (44), P Dalton 6 for P Cunningham (63), N Gaffney for D Hayden (67)
Ref – R Hickey (Clare)
Game at a glance
Man of the match: Ross Munnelly (Laois)
Lively and positive, Munnelly brought a bit of star quality to the Laois attack and his nine points, five from frees, were a fair reward for his efforts.
Laois turned a two-point deficit into a three-point lead in the period from the 40th to the 49th minutes and pushed on from there to keep Wicklow at bay.
How will Laois fare against the all-conquering Dubs on June 8? Nobody will give them a snowball's chance in hell, but Laois management and players will be fired up to give the Dubs a battle.
Munnelly and Donie Kingston kicked some terrific points from play, but the vote goes to Wicklow's Paul Cunningham for his finely struck goal just before half-time.
Rory Hickey managed to go through the first half without showing a card of any colour, and only dished out two yellows in total. A steady performance.
WHAT THEY SAID
Tomas O Flatharta (Laois manager):
"We had a lot of chances in the first half. It was a matter of staying composed at half-time and taking it from there, and I felt they did that in the second half."
Harry Murphy (Wicklow manager):
"They went on a bit of a run, kicked five or six points, and that was the end of us."
Laois 13 (7 in first half)
Wicklow 6 (5)
Laois 21 (9)
Wicklow 20 (10)
Wicklow 2 (K Murphy 39, P McLoughlin 49) BLACK CARDS
Laois 0 Wicklow 0
Laois 0 Wicklow 0
Laois play Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final at Croke Park on June 8; Wicklow go into the qualifiers.