Second-half demolition sees Lilywhites cruise past Laois
Kildare 3-18 Laois 1-11
For Kildare fans, wiping their eyes in disbelief, it was like watching a rerun of the 2000 Leinster SFC final replay against Dublin. For their shellshocked Laois counterparts, it was football's equivalent of GUBU: grotesque, unbelievable and bizarre, whatever about unprecedented.
Here's the shorthand script: after a surprisingly open and entertaining first half, Laois led tonight's Leinster quarter-final replay in Tullamore by 0-9 to 0-8. Three minutes and 15 seconds after the resumption, the traumatised O'Moore men trailed by eight, having leaked 2-3 in little more than an eye blink.
The rest is mere window dressing. Suffice to say, Kildare won the second half by 3-10 to 1-2 - a rout that may even convince some Lilywhite optimists that the unthinkable, beating Dublin the next day, is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
The previously scoreless Cathal McNally started the transformation with an excellent point within 20 seconds of the restart … but the real turning point was Graham Brody's resultant short kickout. Alan Smith intercepted and fed Eamonn Callaghan for a goal, tucked away neatly underneath Brody.
The second half stopwatch read 45 minutes. Quickfire points followed from Padraig Fogarty and Callaghan as a precursor to McNally's contest-ending goal. There was an element of good fortune, Smith's speculative point attempt dropping short - but McNally timed his inward run perfectly to fist to the net.
The scores kept coming as an all-at-sea Laois leaked an unanswered 2-5 in eight surreal minutes. Not even Donie Kingston's smartly finished goal - after 47 minutes - could stop the rot. Nor was their punishment complete: in the 52nd minute, the impressive Eoghan O'Flaherty teed up substitute Tommy Moolick and, while his first goal attempt was blocked by Colm Begley, O'Flaherty goaled on the rebound.
From there on, the match petered out to an anti-climactic conclusion and Laois were spared further misery by a mounting Kildare wide count that reached 16 at the final count.
For all the pre-match talk about which manager had learned more from the original stalemate, both Tomás Ó Flatharta and Jason Ryan announced unchanged line-ups.
They also started in orthodox man-for-man fashion, with Laois making most of the early running. Crucially, though, this momentum failed to translate onto the scoreboard because of two glorious chances, both spurned.
Kingston was wreaking initial havoc at full-forward, and when backtracking midfielder Gary White ploughed into his back, referee Anthony Nolan awarded a stonewall penalty in the 11th minute.
However, Ross Munnelly seemed to telegraph his intentions and Mark Donnellan - diving to his right - completed an impressive save. Just two minutes later, the Kildare defence was cut open again as Kingston's pop pass released Brendan Quigley, but the marauding midfielder pulled another inviting goal chance wide.
Still, two half-forwards who both finished scoreless on day-one - Niall Donoher and Evan O'Carroll especially - were immense in that first half, finishing with 0-3 each from play while O'Carroll added a booming 48-metre free on the stroke of half-time.
By that stage, however, a steadfast Kildare had worked their way into the contest, with White often floating back into a sweeper role to help close off the gaps.
At the other end, Fogarty was showing well in the target man role. They also landed a sequence of eye-catching points from myriad sources, frequently using their pace advantage to expose gaps in the Laois defence.
They were two behind when Smith was teed up for a 32nd minute goal chance, only to be denied by Brody's alertness off his line. Undeterred, White and O'Flaherty secured parity with an eye-catching brace, before O'Carroll restored a threadbare Laois lead, 0-9 to 0-8, at the midpoint.
Little did they know what was coming.
SCORERS - Kildare: E O'Flaherty 1-4 (0-2f), C McNally 1-2, E Callaghan 1-1, P Fogarty 0-4, P Cribbin 0-2, O Lyons, K Murnaghan, G White, P O'Neill, N Kelly 0-1 each. Laois: D Kingston 1-2 (0-2f), E O'Carroll 0-5 (1f, 1 '45'), N Donoher 0-3, T Shiel 0-1.
KILDARE: M Donnellan; C Fitzpatrick, M O'Grady, O Lyons; K Murnaghan, F Conway, E Bolton; G White, P Cribbin; P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty, C McNally; E Callaghan, P Fogarty, A Smith. Subs: E Doyle for Conway (ht), T Moolick for McNally (52), D Hyland for Bolton (inj 57), N Kelly for Smith (60), H Lynch for White (65), M Conway for Callaghan (67).
LAOIS: G Brody; S Attride, M Timmons, R Kehoe; D Strong, C Begley, D O'Connor; B Quigley, J O'Loughlin; N Donoher, C Boyle, E O'Carroll; R Munnelly, D Kingston, T Shiel. Subs: P Kingston for Munnelly (44), J Finn for Shiel (51), G Hanrahan for O'Connor (60), G Dillon for Strong (65), B Sheehan for Donoher (65), E Lowry for Boyle (65).
REF: A Nolan (Wicklow)