Monday 19 February 2018

Lethal Laois leave Dubs in their wake

LAOIS 2-10 DUBLIN 1-9 All-Ireland MFC final replay TWO clinically executed goals made all the difference as lethal Laois left no doubt about their superiority in the All-Ireland MFC replay before a massive 17,000 crowd at Dr Cullen Park, Carlow yesterday.

Though playing against a strong breeze in the opening half Laois found the net after just five minutes when diminutive full-forward Donal Brennan left-footed the ball past Dublin goalkeeper Kieran Walsh after the Leinster champions had opened the scoring with a Barry Kennedy point.

Midway through the second half the Dublin goal was breached once again after St Joseph's Colm Kelly set up by Peter McNulty, blasted home an almost impossible shot from an acute angle to put the midlanders firmly in the driving seat 2-7 to 0-7.

Two weeks ago Laois needed a last gasp point from sub David Murphy to salvage a draw, but yesterday Seán Dempsey's charges would not have been flattered by a more emphatic winning margin.

Laois, 1-4 to 0-6 up at half time, were leading 2-10 to 0-8 on 60 minutes when sub James Brogan, after goalkeeper Conor Gorman had saved from Mark Vaughan, tapped the loose ball to the net for Dublin's goal.

As well, Stradbally's Colm Kelly had a penalty brilliantly saved by 'keeper Walsh early in the second half and just before the end Chris Bergin hit the butt of Dublin's left post.

The crucial difference between the sides was that Laois showed far greater improvement since the drawn tie.

Yesterday the midlanders attack and particularly will of the wisp Brennan, who Dublin used three different markers on, Chris Bergin and St Josephs Colm Kelly, consistently tormented the opposition defence with their imaginative and intricate play.

And at the other end of the field the likes of Cahir Healy, Cathal Ryan and Colm Begley minimised the amount of time and space afforded to the Dublin attack.

In fact the Laois backs sealed off the gaps so well that the Dublin forwards frequently found themselves running into cul de sacs, or being forced to over-play the ball because their colleagues were so tightly marked. The passing of the Dublin attackers also often lacked accuracy and crispness.

In contrast Laois generally played with far more guile and cohesion and their use of possession and the running-of-the-ball was superior to that of their opponents.

"I think the venue suited us as it's difficult for a slight team like ourselves to seal off the open spaces at Croke Park. But our tremendous workrate and the fact that we had 15 leaders out there on the pitch were the really important factors in our win."

At midfield John Coughlan turned in an outstanding performance for the Dubs and the Liffeysiders fared better in this area than in the drawn tie. But still Laois midfielders Craig Rogers and Brendan Quigley still delivered a consistent supply of ball to their attacking colleagues.

A mitigating factor for Dublin, however, was that they were forced to field without right half-back Donnacha Reilly and right corner-forward Aidan Relihan because of a knee injury and a stomach bug respectively.

Jubiliant Laois supremo Dempsey, for whom Brennan is one of seven players under-age for the minor grade again next year remarked: "Being a point up at half-time with the wind to come was a boost but we stressed to the lads that the wind never won a match for any team."

"Laois thoroughly deserved their victory," conceded Dublin boss Ciarán O Hare. "Their forwards made it very difficult for our defence and their backs contained our forwards very well. We needed to have a decent lead at half-time and the second Laois goal left us with a huge task."

SCORERS - Laois: D Brennan 1-2, M Tierney 0-4 (3f, 1 '45'), Colin Kelly (St Josephs) 1-0, T McNulty 0-2, C Bergin, C Rogers 0-1 each. Dublin: K Leahy 0-6 (3f), J Brogan 1-0, M Vaughan, K Cleere, B Kennedy (f) 0-1 each.

LAOIS - C Gorman; C Healy, C Ryan, R Stapleton; P O'Leary, C Begley, N Donagher; B Quigley, C Rogers; D Bergin, Colm Kelly (Stradbally), P McNulty; M Tierney, D Brennan, Colm Kelly (St Josephs). Subs: I Fleming for C Kelly (Stradbally) (60), D Murphy for Tierney (62).

DUBLIN - K Walsh; A Downes, K Cleere, W Lowry; C Murtagh, G Brennan, I Ward; B Phelan, J Coughlan; M Vaughan, F Fitzgerald, G O'Meara; J O'Hara, K Leahy, B Kennedy. Subs: J Brogan for O'Hara (39), D Walsh for Downes (48), M Hallows for Murtagh (51), W Moore for Fitzgerald (57).

REF - M Hughes (Tyrone).

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