Wednesday 21 February 2018

Late flurry ensures Laois take share of the spoils

Laois 1-17 Louth 2-14

DAMIAN LAWLOR

DEADLOCK in Portlaoise as Louth and Laois shared the spoils in a cracking and dogged encounter.

DEADLOCK in Portlaoise as Louth and Laois shared the spoils in a cracking and dogged encounter.

Louth looked to be in the driving seat in the first half and with time running out they pushed five points in front once more, only to be pegged back by a dogged home side in an intense second-tier encounter. Laois had two late chances to win it but in the end a draw was a fair result.

John O'Loughlin ruled the roost for the midland side, while Louth's Shane Lennon and speedy substitute Derek Maguire were inspirational as well. The sides meet again in the championship and if it's anything like this we're in for a cracker.

We had a fascinating game here, in front of 2,000 spectators, with an obvious clash of cultures. Laois moved the ball very methodically but frequently ran into traffic. Louth, in contrast, packed their defence but worked possession very quickly to a three-man full-forward line where Lennon stood out. His class is obvious and last night he was on fire. Indeed, the Laois management moved Mark Timmons off him after just five minutes. Gradually, with quick Louth ball being pumped in, they also moved Kevin Meaney back to sweep.

Still, Laois had lots of possession. They lost the early midfield battle but with MJ Tierney working in a playmaker role they slowly got to grips with winning breaking ball. Colm Coss missed an early gilt-edged goal chance but Billy Sheehan followed up to fire their opening point.

Louth pressed on and won six out of 10 midfield battles under the dropping ball. When Laois did get the ball their decision-making was questionable and they hit some poor wides as Louth edged 0-7 to 0-5 ahead after 30 minutes.

That's when Laois retreated Meaney and put him between centre and full-back. It allowed O'Loughlin to power on and he certainly did as the half drew to a close, picking up Coss' perfect pass to steam through the Wee County defence and rifle home a spectacular goal.

Colm Begley hit a wonder point soon after to leave Laois a point up before, in what was now an end-to-end affair, Andy McDonnell hit a rasper himself at the other end which was saved by Eoin Culliton, one of the best shot stoppers in the business. Brian White's '45' at the end of the first half left the sides locked 1-6 to 0-9.

Louth made two changes, with the pacy Maguire impressing, creating a goal for McDonnell and winning three frees as Louth tore back into the lead – 1-11 to 1-8 after 42 minutes. With the Louth half-forwards dropping back to repeatedly win kick-outs, the visitors ran into a three-point lead again with 20 minutes left.

Kevin Rogers' goal for Louth with 18 minutes to go seemed like it had left Laois with too much work to do but then Lennon went off injured and Laois fired five in a row to get back level with five minutes left. In a game this tight it was only fitting this went to the wire.

Scorers – Laois: R Munnelly (3f), G Walsh (2f) 0-5 each, J O'Loughlin 1-2, MJ Tierney (1 '45') C Begley, 0-2 each, B Sheehan 0-1. Louth: K Rogers 1-2 (0-2f), A McDonnell 1-1, B White 0-4 (1f, 1, '45'), S Lennon 0-3, R Carroll, D Crilly, K Rogers, A Reid 0-1 each.

Laois: E Culliton; D Booth, M Timmons, P O'Leary; D Strong, J O'Loughlin, C Boyle; B Quigley, K Meaney; R Munnelly, C Coss, C Begley; B Sheehan, P Clancy, G Walsh. Subs: C Healy for D Strong (43), C Kelly for C Coss (48), P McMahon for K Meaney (56)

Louth: N Gallagher; R Carroll, D Finnegan, G Hoey; J O'Brien, D Crilly, A Reid; P Keenan, M Fanning; A McDonnell, B Donnelly, B White; P Smith, S Lennon, K Rogers. Subs: D Maguire for P Smith (33), C McGuinness for M Fanning (h-t), C Rafferty for S Lennon (inj 47), D Clarke for R Carroll (54), D Reid for K Rogers (59)

Referee: P Sullivan (Kerry)

Irish Independent

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