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Late show lifts Lilies

Kieran McGeeney was giving his thoughts on the events of the preceding hour and a half when his eyes drifted away and the semblance of a smile showed on his face. He raised his hand and another hand came through the press pack to shake his.

"You're buying," said McGeeney to Justin McNulty, who laughed and carried on, long gone by the time the Kildare manager's media duties were finished.

There's probably little doubt that the pair of them had at least a drink riding on this game. McNulty had joked earlier in the week that they might start a bit of a row on the sideline just to create a bit of a show for supporters.

Kildare against Laois is always big around Courtwood, Ballylinan, Athy and Monasterevin but the fact that both teams are managed by two close friends added just a little twist.

McNulty is three years younger than McGeeney but they played for many years together with Mullaghbawn and Armagh and even brought the curtain down on their playing careers together with Na Fianna on Mobhi Road.

So it made sense that when McNulty was offered the opportunity to take over at Laois, that he would consult the man who had transformed Kildare from nobodies to contenders.

And on this day it was McGeeney and Kildare who took the spoils but there was clear evidence of McNulty's positive influence on Laois. They defended in numbers and broke quickly when the opportunity presented itself.

Kevin Meaney was strong at full-back, Pádraig Clancy and Colm Begley effective in midfield and perhaps most significantly, Ross Munnelly marauding up front. The Arles-Kilcruise man finished with five points from play.

And even though Kildare needed a huge slice of luck in the form of Denis Booth's 45th-minute own goal -- the unlucky defender was running towards his own posts when Michael Nolan made a spectacular one-handed save from James Kavanagh, only for the ball to rebound off him and into the net -- when the game was in the melting pot, it was the Lilies who knew how to see it through.


"We didn't get all the scores we should have for the possession we had but from a mental point of view I thought it was a good win," said McGeeney.

"They dug deep and used their brains in the last five minutes to get the vital scores.

"Laois were hard to break down and we kicked away a lot of possession for 10 minutes but they began to play more intelligent football and it paid off.

"We got a wee bit of luck with the goal. It was a fantastic save and the defender probably didn't see it coming but I'll take it. We don't get much of it."

Kildare had a point on the board after 20 seconds from Rob Kelly but Begley found the net for Laois in the fourth minute after a strong run taking a pass from the brilliant Munnelly.

White and Flynn had the teams level within a couple of minutes, though, as Kildare fed their inside men with quality ball.

As Laois got on top in the centre, however, that supply became more speculative and Meaney swept up the skyscrapers.

What's more, Munnelly in particular began to have some joy, having initially began with a roaming role.

Once he reverted inside, he kicked two excellent points and fisted another, while Michael John Tierney added a brace, including a wonderful kick from play.

Laois were five points clear and good value for it before the hard- working Ronan Sweeney converted a 24th-minute free -- Kildare's first score in 18 minutes. He added a couple more and had a hand in Emmet Bolton's point to reduce the margin to one, but Laois finished strongly with points from Darren Strong and John O'Loughlin to lead by 1-7 to 0-7 at the interval.

Laois resumed in determined fashion and when Munnelly got around Ollie Lyons easily and finished after a strong run from Robert Kehoe, there were four points between them again.


Then came the Kavanagh-Nolan-Booth goal and within seconds, Keith Cribbin had equalised but Laois were in front again entering the final five minutes after Strong blazed over when put through by O'Loughlin with only Connolly to beat.

He was punished for not taking the goal when Kelly equalised before Eoghan O'Flaherty struck with two brilliant late frees -- one with either boot and the second from 55m -- to blow Division 2 wide open and secure bragging rights for the Short Grass supporters.

And a free drink for McGeeney.