McNulty warns Laois to up the ante or be 'obliterated'
JUSTIN McNulty issued a warning to his Laois troops that they will be "obliterated" by Dublin if they repeat the poor performance which saw them just about squeeze past Longford in this Leinster SFC first-round clash at Portlaoise yesterday.
They say the only thing that matters about the first round of the championship is that you win it. But that aside, Laois fans left knowing a massive improvement is needed after a dour display against the Division 4 champions. Even allowing for first-day nerves and the strong swirling breeze, it was a poor, error-prone spectacle.
Longford will view it as one that got away, and know the most telling statistic was their wides tally of 16 to Laois' 10. Glenn Ryan's men had ample opportunities to cause an upset but they failed to take them. They squandered a glorious opportunity to lead at half-time, finally levelled in the 50th minute but couldn't progress and missed late chances to force extra-time.
McNulty later praised his players for digging deep but he conceded that a similar display against the Dubs would be disastrous.
"A number of players need to look closely at their performances and ask, 'why did I not play at a higher level than I did today?" he said. "We will have to get that correct for the next day or else Dublin will obliterate Laois."
Ryan, meanwhile, was bitterly disappointed. "It was a game we could have won but we just didn't go through with it. When you're beaten by a point, it's (16 wides) certainly a stat that stands out," he said. "You could sense it in the first half, but when you're creating chances you're always hopeful that if you create the same chances again you'll take them."
It was Division 2 finalists Laois who exploded out of the blocks with their hard-working debutant Daithi Carroll and then Billy Sheehan kicking early points. Longford were struggling to make inroads, with Kevin Meaney doing a fine job of keeping Longford's dangerman Brian Kavanagh at bay and Kavanagh being forced to come far out the field to get on the ball.
Elsewhere, Laois had the strong-running Cahir Healy on Longford's roving talisman Paul Barden in another pivotal move. It was left to Sean McCormack to provide the attacking threat for Longford but after 16 minutes Laois looked in control when they led 0-5 to 0-2.
But, to their credit, Longford continued to work frantically to win back the ball and when Bernard McElvaney and Martin Brady finally got to grips with Colm Begley and Brendan Quigley in midfield, chances began to fall. The problem was that when their purple patch of dominance arrived, Longford's accuracy deserted them.
McCormack stole along the end-line to fist a point in the 21st minute to make it 0-5 to 0-3. But Longford then kicked four wides over the next four minutes through Paddy Dowd, Brady, McElvaney and Paul Barden.
And from a position where they should have been surging in front, they found themselves further behind when Carroll converted a free. Longford goalkeeper Damien Sheridan was getting massive distance from his kick-outs and he was twice brought up the field to take long-range efforts -- but both were off target.
Laois led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time but Longford dominated the early exchanges after the break, with a Bernard McElvaney free and then a McCormack point levelling the match in the 50th minute after Sheridan had saved well to deny Quigley a goal.
It was Carroll who again broke the deadlock for Laois and Niall Donoher and a Ross Munnelly free increased their lead. But with Padraic Clancy on the bench with injury and John O'Loughlin quiet by his standards at centre-forward, Laois were unable to kill the game.
With Dermot Brady mopping up in defence, Donal McElligott effective as a third midfielder and David Barden also getting his hands on a lot of ball, Longford continued to keep Laois at bay, but their shooting remained poor. Laois were also finding it hard to finish. They had taken off MJ Tierney as early as the 45th minute and also brought on Donie Kingston as a target man but as the Longford shots went astray the threat of extra-time lessened. David Barden was off target with a chance in injury time. From the kick-out, Clancy, sprung in the 70th minute, won the ball to ensure Laois survived to meet Dublin on June 5.
Man of the Match: Peter O'Leary (Laois)
SCORERS -- Laois: D Carroll 0-4 (1f), B Sheehan, N Donoher 0-2 each, MJ Tierney, R Munnelly (f) 0-1 each. Longford: S McCormack 0-6 (3f), B Kavanagh, M Brady, B McElvaney (f) 0-1 each.
LAOIS -- E Culleton 7; M Timmons 7, K Meaney 7, P O'Leary 8; C Healy 7, S Julian 7, D Strong 7; C Begley 7, B Quigley 7; N Donoher 8, J O'Loughlin 6, D Carroll 8; R Munnelly 7, B Sheehan 7, MJ Tierney 6. Subs: K Lillis 7 for Tierney (45), D Kingston 6 for Sheehan (56), C Boyle 6 for Strong (63), P Clancy for Munnelly (70).
LONGFORD -- D Sheridan 7; D Brady 8, B Gilleran 6, D Reilly 6; S Mulligan 6, K Diffley 6, N Farrell 6; B McElvaney 7, M Brady 7; D Barden 6, P Dowd 6, P Barden 6; D McElligott 6, B Kavanagh 6, S McCormack 7. Subs: F McGee 6 for Dowd (45), P Foy 6 for Mulligan (54), D Masterson 6 for Farrell (63), J O'Shea 6 for Brady (63).
Ref -- D Coldrick (Meath)