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No love lost in Port' war

KIERAN McGEENEY is not a big fan of talking to the media but that is not because of an inability to put his thoughts into words. Indeed, the Kildare manager is probably the most articulate man in football.

But when asked whether he had ever seen seven players sent off in an intercounty match before, he was most definitely stuck for words.

It wasn't that he was stonewalling. McGeeney seemed slightly perplexed, managing a "no" before resorting to just blowing the air from his cheeks. The Na Fianna clubman doesn't quit on anything, though, and did better second time around.

His bemusement stemmed from the fact that he didn't consider a game that also included seven yellow cards to have been overly aggressive.

In truth, it had been meandering along harmlessly enough until the eruption of an ugly brawl that led to five players seeing red in the 31st minute: Kevin Meaney, Billy Sheehan and Peter O'Leary of Laois, and Kildare's Johnny Doyle and Morgan O'Flaherty.


Referee Syl Doyle is to be commended for his firm action but with 29 players having converged on the Laois 20-metre line by the time the boots and fists had stopped flying, there were a couple from each side who could count themselves very lucky not to be taking an early shower as well.

McGeeney made the fact that he would not be defending indiscipline from players very clear, adding that Doyle had no option but to send players off. He did opine that the Wexford referee might have prevented rising passions from being fuelled by dealing with an earlier altercation between Ronan Sweeney and Brendan Quigley.

And while he wasn't absolving his players of blame, he wasn't sure that the referee had identified the right culprits either, not to mind all of them.

"We're not allowed comment on any decisions made but you would have felt that if the incident just five seconds before the brawl had been taken care of, it would have been all wiped out.

"I don't think Laois or Kildare went out looking for a fight but that incident should have been taken care of whatever way he saw fit.

"But to throw the ball up straight after two people were on the ground was a disaster and it went from there.

"I would be shocked if Morgan O'Flaherty raised his hands. I'm not saying no Kildare player did but I would be shocked if Morgan did. His only words coming off the pitch were that he never raised his hands. Johnny Doyle's reputation speaks for itself. Páidí O'Neill is in the same boat as well. And (Laois manager) Seán (Dempsey) could say the same about his men.

"You have to understand that the referees need to do their business and there's no place for that there. None.

"No matter what excuses I give, or Seán gives, there's no excuse for that. It just shouldn't happen.

"But I think it could have easily been stopped.

"The referee had to discipline somebody. I don't want any player sitting beside me (when he should be out on the pitch). I don't want any lack of discipline in the squad. I feel that these are a good bunch of lads and their discipline for me has been A1. But to lose three players during the game, in a game that I wouldn't consider in any way aggressive."

McGeeney and Dempsey will be waiting anxiously on news of the possibility of further sanctions coming from Leinster Council, with more and/or increased suspensions and fines a distinct possibility.

One recalls the infamous Battle of Omagh between Dublin and Tyrone in 2006 that led to both county boards and a total of nine players being charged with bring-ing the game into disrepute, even though only four players were sent off.

The result was almost lost with the headlines obviously going to the sendings off, but Kildare now face Louth in the O'Byrne Cup semi-final.

It was men against boys at times as they were consistently stronger than Laois in the tackle, but their failure to kill off their opponents, having led by two points at half-time with an extra man and having two extra players for 10 minutes in the second half, was "poor", said McGeeney.

They remained comfortable, however, against a Laois side that carried absolutely no attacking threat. It was a good day for a Kildare defence in which Gary White and Emmet Bolton shone -- and the hosts failed to register even one score from play.

Embarrassingly, Michael Tierney kicked their entire tally of eight points, with seven coming from frees and one from a 45.

Two of those frees gave Laois a nice start but, with Anthony Rainbow and David influential, Kildare scored five on the trot and were never in trouble from that point onwards.

A couple of more Tierney frees left it at 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time but the impressive Rob Kelly and Whyte slotted some wonderful points to leave just enough distance between the two sides at the final whistle.