O'Connor the key for Kildare
Kildare maintained their 100 per cent record in the qualifiers since Kieran McGeeney's arrival with a commanding second half performance against old rivals Laois.
A significant factor in this win was the presence of high-fielding Tomas O'Connor at full-forward -- as he made a direct contribution to all bar one point of the Lilies' first half tally of 2-3. O'Connor had already created a couple of chances before making a splendid catch over Kevin Meaney's head from a Fionn Dowling delivery in the 14th minute. The Clane man laid off cleverly to the onrushing Eoghan O'Flaherty, who was bundled over in the area by Shane Julian. Johnny Doyle coolly stepped up to send Eoin Culliton the wrong way.
Donie Kingston lofted over a wonderful free soon after before O'Connor was causing havoc again. This time, he gained possession from Paidi O'Neill's delivery and though his first shot was blocked by Mark Timmons, it was O'Connor who reacted quickest to toe-poke the rebound in.
While O'Connor was a big threat, he was Kildare's only one, and it wasn't until the 26th minute that they kicked their first point, a delightful outside-of-the-boot kick on the run by O'Neill. MJ Tierney had lofted over a free from the hands before that though and as long as Laois were dominating midfield -- and they continued to do so despite Rob Kelly's relocation to this area -- they possessed sufficient threat to stay in touch.
Tierney added a second free but it was Kildare who finished the stronger, O'Connor -- now being marked by Timmons -- again the supplier for an excellent point by O'Flaherty and another score by Eamonn Callaghan to leave them leading at the break by 2-3 to 0-6.
Kildare burst out of the blocks with points from Ollie Lyons -- with the now almost obligatory assist by O'Connor -- and a pearler from tight on the right by Lynch.
Laois remained in touch, with a pointed free by Kingston and an excellent score by Brendan Quigley, but they could get no change from a magnificent Kildare rearguard in which Mick Foley and Andriu Mac Lochlainn in particular shone. As the second half went on, Kildare wore Laois down with their workrate. O'Neill swapped to good effect with Doyle and lofted a sensational point, with Lynch also on the mark a couple of more times, while Doyle converted three frees.
One of the biggest roars of the night came eight minutes from time when Mikey Conway came into the play for his first appearance since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury on this ground two years ago.
The loudest arrived in the 66th minute when James Kavanagh unleashed a powerful shot to the roof of the Laois net, after a brilliant pass by O'Neill, to lay Laois hopes to rest.
Scorers -- Kildare: J Doyle 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-4fs); H Lynch 0-3(1f); J Kavanagh 1-1; T O'Connor 1-0; P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty(1 45) 0-2 each; E Callaghan, F Dowling, O Lyons, B Flanagan 0-1 each; Laois: D Kingston (2fs) 0-3; N Donoher, MJ Tierney 0-2(fs) each; R Munnelly, P Clancy, B Quigley 0-1 each
Kildare: S Connolly; A Mac Lochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillen; O Lyons, M O'Flaherty, G White; J Doyle, H Lynch; P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty, E Callaghan; F Dowling, T O'Connor, R Kelly. Subs: J Kavanagh for Kelly (44); T O'Neill for Lyons (58); M Scanlon for M O'Flaherty (68); B Flanagan for White (68)
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong, S Julian, P McMahon; P Clancy, B Quigley; C Begley, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher; R Munnelly, D Kingston, MJ Tierney. Subs: C Boyle for Healy inj (8); K Lillis for Strong (ht); D Carroll for Tierney (51); G Kavanagh for Clancy (55); B Brennan for Lillis (58)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)
Sunday Indo Sport