Laois goal blitz now leaves Kerry in danger of relegation

Joe McDonagh Cup - Kerry 1-21, Laois 5-17

Shane Conway of Kerry (right) and Donnacha Hartnett of Laois in action. Photo By Domnick Walsh
Shane Conway of Kerry (right) and Donnacha Hartnett of Laois in action. Photo By Domnick Walsh

Damian Stack at Austin Stack Park, Tralee

You're not going to win too many games - or any even - if you concede five goals.

No matter how well Kerry did in other aspects of the game - and they actually played rather well again in a lot of ways - they were always fighting an uphill battle because of the concession of those goals.

Resilience will only carry you so far and Kerry, to give them their dues, were resilient. The way they bounced back to going eight points down after twelve minutes, following a pair of Laois goals, was impressive, but there's only so many times you can do that.

Even after Laois' third goal Kerry weren't in bad shape - just six behind at the break - but after the fourth and the fifth goals, the fourth in particular, there was no way back.

That Kerry outscored Laois six points to five from there to the finish is encouraging enough - especially with a de facto relegation play-off to come this weekend - but you can't read a huge amount into that either. Laois probably took the foot off the gas with the game won and Kerry's back broken.

Eddie Brennan's men are, as Anthony Daly pointed out on Twitter, a team in their manager's image: they go for goal, they go for the jugular. Kerry knew this before the weekend - just a quick look at Laois' scoring tallies would have told you that - but they still weren't able to do anything about it. Forewarned isn't always forearmed.

Kerry started the game encouragingly to go two clear after four minutes, thanks to points from Shane Conway, Pádraig Boyle and Jack Goulding. Laois though weren't in a mood for messing about with a place in the McDonagh final there for the taking.

Between the sixth and the thirteenth minutes the midlands men blitzed the Kingdom for 2-4 unanswered. The first goal came on six minutes through Aaron Dunphy who slotted home brilliantly under pressure from the Kerry defence.

The second arrived just moments later and from a Kerry point of view it was touch unfortunate. Charles Dwyer feeding Ross King for the finish past the despairing John Brendan O'Halloran who seemed to get a little someting on the shot. Alas not enough.

Three further points - two Maher frees and a Ross point from play - left it 0-3 to 2-5. Kerry with their heads very much under water. It didn't take Kerry long to strike back, however.

Within sixty seconds of Maher's second free the hugely impressive Pádraig Boyle had the ball in the back of Enda Rowland's net as he took advantage of a mix-up in the Laois defence to secure the ultimate poacher's goal.

The goal rejuvenated the Kerry challenge and Boyle was most unfortunate not to have a second goal on fourteen minutes when Jack Goulding - involved in a lot of good work all afternoon - put him through. This time, however, Rowland was able to stop the Ballyduff man.

The Kingdom had brought it back to a three point game by the twenty second minute and with the breeze to come for the second half things were looking up, alas it was then that Laois struck for their third goal.

This one was a real peach with Charles Dwyer playing a wonderful pass out around the middle to catch Kerry off guard. Paddy Purcell took it on before feeding Neil Foyle for the unstoppable finish - 1-6, 3-6 twenty six minutes gone.

The most encouraging thing from Kerry's point of view is that despite all these set-backs they kept on going. The team spirit we referenced after the Westmeath game was very much in evidence here again.

Fintan O'Connor's men shared ten points equally with Laois up until the half-time break - 1-11 to 3-11 - and started the second half with a pair of points from Goulding and Boyle (assist brother Mikey).

With just four points between the sides and the breeze at the Kingdom's back into the Horan's end they were in a decent place. Laois though were having none of it. First Maher pointed a free and then Charles Dwyer scored a goal for the ages - from distance, through a thicket of bodies, powerfully struck, no chance Kerry.

Some of the goals Kerry could have done something about, but not this one, this one was simply unstoppable. Sometimes you just have to admit the opposition have got you and this was one of those occasions.

Kerry, of course, battled on. Jordan Conway, on as a second half sub, could have had a goal of his own on forty four minutes and had Kerry scored that, then maybe they might have been able to force their way back into contention.

That Laois followed up Shane Conway's '65 for his namesake's chance with their fifth goal, however, tells us that Laois had this one covered. Had they needed to up it another gear they would have done (Paddy Purcell scored that fifth Laois goal following build up play by Ross King and John Lennon).

As we say Kerry's rally to the finish is encouraging ahead of this weekend, but the Offaly management team (who no doubt would have been amongst the 798 in attendance on the John Joe Sheehy Road) will have noted Laois' strategy here.

Offaly though are no Laois. A game against the best team in the competition was always going to test Kerry. There's no shame in losing to this Laois team. Kerry do need to learn the lessons from it though... and fast.

Kerry: John Brendan O'Halloran, James O'Connor (0-1), Bryan Murphy, Seán Weir, Evan Murphy, Mikey Boyle (0-1), Daniel Collins (0-1), Dan Goggin, Tomás O'Connor, Michael O'Leary (0-2), Shane Conway (0-10, 6f, 3 '65s), Patrick Kelly, Jack Goulding (0-1), Pádraig Boyle (1-5), Colum Harty Subs: John Buckley for E Murphy, 28, Jordan Conway for D Goggin, 43, Michael Slattery for C Harty, 49

Laois: Enda Rowland, Joe Phelan, Matthew Whelan, Donncha Hartnett, Jack Kelly (0-1), Ryan Mullaney, Pádraig Delaney, John Lennon, Paddy Purcell (1-0), Aaron Dunphy (1-3), Neil Foyle (1-2), Stephen Maher (0-6, 5f), Willie Dunphy (0-1), Charles Dwyer (1-3), Ross King (1-1) Subs: Stephen Bergin for R King, 47, Lee Cleere for J Phelan, 50, Conor Phelan for N Foyle, 60, Eric Killeen for J Kelly, 66, Lorcan Burke for P Delaney, 69

Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)