Dublin relish second coming
DUBLIN 3-11 LAOIS 0-15 DUBLIN proved a week is a long time in hurling with a deserved win over Laois in Saturday night's replayed Leinster SHC quarter-final at Nowlan Park.
Seven days earlier, the men from the capital had threatened to self-destruct after having two players sent off - this time, there wasn't even a yellow card as they overcame a first half wides-fest to book a semi-final date against Kilkenny.
Laois can have few complaints. Aside from a 12-minute purple patch midway through the second half, they played second fiddle to their opponents and would have lost by more if the Dublin attack wasn't so erratic in the opening 35 minutes.
It says much for the Walsh Cup winners' first half dominance that they managed to lead by a point (1-4 to 0-6) at half-time after recording 13 wides! Despite this alarming statistic, manager Marty Morris said afterwards that his confidence was still high at the interval.
"Possession wise, I thought we had the platform and just hadn't put the scores on the board," reflected the Sky Blues boss.
"There was a feeling of deja vu about it. We had done this with Laois before and paid the penalty, but I think our back-line is a better unit than it was then (2001)."
The Dublin shooting malaise was best encapsulated by the fluctuating fortunes of Tomás McGrane. Scorer of 13 points (all but two from placed balls) the previous Saturday, the St Vincent's ace could only convert one free on this occasion. However, he made up for his deadball deficiency with two telling contributions in open play.
McGrane's first major impact came after just nine minutes. Laois 'keeper John Lyons tipped away Shane Martin's goal attempt, but the Dublin freetaker reacted quickest and whipped the rebound to the net.
The second moment of magic from McGrane arrived seven minutes into the second half. Sub Derek O'Reilly hit a long delivery that sailed over the heads of the Laois full-back line. The Dublin No 13 showed a striker's pace to gather possession and showed Raul-like instincts to beat Lyons with a left-footed effort.
Within 30 seconds, the city slickers had moved five in front following a well-taken point from Martin, who found a new lease of life when moving from full-forward to the '40.
This score triggered an impressive response from Laois who, after looking laboured for long periods of the opening half, suddenly found their stride.
With midfielder James Young leading the way they reeled off six unanswered points, the last of which was a prodigious effort from hard-working wing-back Michael McEvoy.
Dublin, however, weren't reaching for the panic button. Outstanding wing-back Stephen Hiney best illustrated their determination, and his team were rewarded when supersub Ger Ennis bagged their third goal with 13 minutes to go.
Doubtless, Laois will argue the score shouldn't have been allowed to stand. There was plenty to admire at the way Martin created the opening with a clever pass, but Ennis appeared to take several steps too many before he found the net. Wexford referee Dickie Murphy ignored the protests, and from thereon, the issue was never in doubt.
Kevin Flynn, by now at midfield, and the revitalised Conal Keaney proved a formidable pairing, while Stephen Perkins spearheaded the disciplined approach at the back.
All roads (again) lead to Kilkenny for the clash with the All-Ireland champions, a challenge to which Morris is looking forward: "This is what we set our stall out for at the start of the year - hopefully we can take the game to the wire, and we might get the rub of the green."
SCORERS - Dublin: T McGrane 2-3 (1f); S Martin 0-5; G Ennis 1-1; C Keaney 0-2 (1f, 1 65). Laois: J Young 0-8 (5fs, 1 65); M McEvoy and R Jones 0-2 each; D Cuddy, J Phelan, L Tynan 0-1 each.
LAOIS - J Lyons 6; L Mahon 7, Pakie Cuddy 6, P Mahon 5; C Cuddy 6, Paul Cuddy 8, M McEvoy 8; D Rooney 6, J Young 8; J Phelan 6, D Cuddy 6, R Jones 6; T Fitzgerald 5, L Tynan 6, D Culleton 5. Subs: D Conroy 5 for Phelan (49); L Wynne 6 for Fitzgerald (59); B McCormack 5 for Culleton (63).
DUBLIN - B McLoughlin 8; P Brennan 8, S Perkins 8, D Spain 8; S Hiney 9, K Ryan 7, K Elliott 5; C Keaney 8, S McDonnell 6; D Russell 5, C Meehan 6, T Moore 6; T McGrane 8, S Martin 9, K Flynn 8. Subs: D O'Reilly 8 for Elliott (24); M Carton 5 for Russell (35); G Ennis 7.5 for McDonnell (45); K Horgan 6 for Moore (55).
REF - D Murphy (Wexford).
Attendance: 4,000 (estimated).