O'Moore men made to dig it out in Garden
Laois 2-16 Wicklow 3-10
A return to Aughrim on June 17, 2017. It's hard to credit that 31 years have passed since June 15, 1986 when I reported on the infamous 'Battle of Aughrim' for the Irish Independent, a day that has gone down in history and which forever will be recalled whenever Wicklow host Laois in championship football.
That game had everything - a combustible mixture of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Laois arrived as reigning NFL champions, their eyes fixed on a Leinster title charge. Wicklow had other ideas. They took the game to their opponents with an uncompromisingly physical approach.
Blood boiled early. Within 12 minutes referee Carthage Buckley of Offaly had dismissed Willie Brennan and Christy Maguire of Laois. The O'Moore County talisman Tom Prendergast got his marching orders in the second half, as did Wicklow's Dan O'Neill, and just to round it off, Buckley was besieged in the dressing room afterwards by angry Laois supporters.
And by the way - Wicklow won the match 2-10 to 1-9, which happens to be the last time the Garden County defeated Laois in the championship.
In 2014, the last time Wicklow played Laois at Aughrim, and in 2016 at O'Moore Park, Laois continued their winning run at the expense of Johnny Magee's team.
Yesterday it was all-or-nothing in a 1A qualifier at the scenic venue, now known as Joule Park. Wicklow had the advantage of a strong breeze, but a combination of their wayward shooting and Laois quality meant the home side turned in at the interval with 0-5 to the visitors' 1-8.
Gary Walsh hit 1-4 for Laois in that first half, with the goal coming in the 11th minute when he struck the ball home after Colm Begley and Donie Kingston had set up the scoring opportunity.
The exchanges were hard but mostly fair and the atmosphere in sun-splashed Aughrim took a long while to reach any great level of red-blooded intensity.
Inevitably, however, the game came alight in the final quarter when Paul Cunningham slotted home a morale-boosting goal for Wicklow in the 52nd minute.
That was answered by Donie Kingston's 58th-minute goal which put Laois nicely in command at 2-14 to 1-9, but there was more to come from battling Wicklow.
A 68th-minute strike by substitute Paddy Byrne, and another one minute later from Cunningham, raised the temperature to boiling point as Wicklow strove might and main to get on level terms. They had three minutes of time added on but Laois were good enough to hold the home side.
Scorers - Laois: G Walsh 1-4 (1f, 2 '45), D Kingston 1-4 each; C Begley 0-2; D Conway, J O'Loughlin, T Collins, A Farrell, R Munnelly, D O'Connor 0-1 each. Wicklow: P Cunningham 2-3 (1f); Paddy Byrne 1-0; S Furlong 0-3 (3f); J McGrath, M Kenny 0-2.
Laois: G Brody; D Strong, M Timmons, S Attride; E Buggie, P McMahon, D O'Connor; B Quigley, C Begley; A Farrell, J O'Loughlin, T Collins; Gary Walsh, D Kingston, D Conway. Subs: J Finn for B Quigley (32); E O'Carroll for S Attride (BC, 42); R Munnelly for G Walsh (44); K Lillis for P McMahon (46);A Doran for E O'Carroll (61); G Dillon for D Conway (65).
Wicklow: R Lambert; C Hyland, S Kelly, B Kennedy; D Hayden, D Fitzgerald, J Crowe; D Boothman, A McLoughlin; R Finn, D Healy, C Ffrench; M Kenny, S Furlong, P Cunningham. Subs: J McGrath for D Boothman (h-t); P Traynor for C Ffrench (h-t); Paddy Byrne for D Fitzgerald (57); Padraig Byrne for P Traynor (65).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)
Sunday Indo Sport