Friday 15 November 2019

Jim Gavin heaps praise on Dublin's match winner Emmet O Conghaile

Dublin 1-12 Laois 1-11 (Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup)

Jonny Cooper, Dublin, in action against Mark O'Halloran, Laois
Jonny Cooper, Dublin, in action against Mark O'Halloran, Laois
Paul Begley, Laois, in action against Dean Rock, Dublin

At this time of year, almost anything can be forgiven.

Bad passing, wides and general sloppiness are all core facets of January football as new faces try to settle into a different level of football.

But what won't fly is a lack of effort. After Wednesday night's defeat to Maynooth University where they were probably flattered by an eight-point losing margin, Laois manager Tomas O Flathartha demanded more application from his side.

There was no stirring win here, Dublin aren't in the habit of rolling over these days, no matter who takes to the field.

In the end, Laois were chinned by the last kick of the game but only after the Midlanders had gone deep into their reserves to put themselves in a commanding position with four minutes to play.

They didn't see it out, but in January, getting into a winning position, and doing it against the odds, will suffice.

Gearoid Hanrahan, Laois, in action against Philip Ryan, Dublin
Gearoid Hanrahan, Laois, in action against Philip Ryan, Dublin

"We can talk about tactics all week but we had to show a bit of loyalty to the county and that was very encouraging from them," a satisfied O Flatharta said afterwards.

The opening hour had been typically-stilted stuff for this time of year. However, a game's worth of drama was squeezed into the final few minutes.

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At one stage in the second half, Laois had been staring down the barrel of a gun. Three points down with a little over 20 to play, it looked like the strong breeze behind Dublin would carry them home and back up the motorway.

But Laois worked their way back. Through Donie Kingston, Brendan Quigley and John O'Loughlin, they squeezed Dublin's time on the ball in the middle third.

They got back to within a point but shot themselves in the foot when needlessly conceding a 45 that led to a point.

Still, they came back. And when Kingston cleverly sent Quigley clear to blast to the net on 66 minutes to give the home side a two-point lead, Laois looked like they were home and dry.

However, Dublin immediately went down the field and forced a penalty when Shane Carthy was tripped by Gearoid Hanrahan.

Laois defenders insisted the free should have been outside the area but Kevin McManamon rolled the spot-kick home to hand the Dubs the lead once again. Another Kingston free saw Laois level again but there was time for one more kick-out and Emmet O Conghaile, seemingly maturing by the game for Dublin, calmly stroked over his third point of the day in the game's final act.

"Today, the main thing that we needed was a bit of honesty and a bit of hard work, and I think we got that," O Flatharta said.

"Six points each at half-time and playing against a very strong breeze, you would think the team with the wind would dominate the play.

"We went behind by three or four points but the lads kept at it and they worked very hard and played for one another. It just goes to show there are lads here who are very proud to play for Laois."

Dublin continued their experimentation but notably retained the same starting back six for the third game in a row.

And manager Jim Gavin had a special word of praise for his match winner O Conghaile along with how Dublin responded to the concession of a late goal.

"He (O Conghaile) is very good at taking his scores and one of the best high fielders we have technically - he has a classic style of catching and we encourage that. It was good to see some high fetching," said Gavin.

"We graft at that mental side of the game, that perseverance and that willingness never to give up."

Laois had the advantage of the wind in the first half and got the first two scores of the game through Kingston frees.

There were almost ten minutes played before Dublin mustered a response through a Dean Rock free as they struggled for forward momentum in difficult conditions.

They did manage to engineer a move to put Costello clear, but the Whitehall man pulled his shot badly wide.

At the other end, Kingston got his first from play and Padraig McEvoy raided forward for a fine point.

Slowly though, Dublin got to grips with the breeze and Costello opened their account from play.

Just shy of the 20 minute mark, Dublin had the ball in the net, but Philly Ryan's fisted point attempt dropped short into the goal and didn't count.

Defensively, Dublin were coping better now too. Extra bodies ensured Kingston didn't have the freedom of Portarlington while some of Laois's shot selection and passing meant they saw eight attacks end with the ball heading harmlessly over the endline in the opening 35 minutes.

Rock gave Dublin the lead for the first time on 24 minutes before Colm Kelly levelled again. Tomas Brady, with a fine left footed effort, and Mark O'Halloran traded scores to see the sides go in level at the break at 0-6 each.

However, Dublin might have goaled at the death but for a some desperate late tackling denying Rock a clear sight of the target.

At that stage, all seemed to be going well for Dublin. They had forced the home side into some poor shot selections and with the advantage of the wind, looked set to see the job finished.

They also introduced two experienced defenders at the interval in Jonny Cooper and Rory O'Carroll but it was Laois who restarted brightest.

They might have had a penalty on their first attack of the half when John O'Loughlin was pulled down in the area.

Instead, they had to settle for a point from a Kingston free.

Dublin hit four unanswered scores then to put them three clear. And just when it looked like Laois would go away, they produced some of their best football to keep in touch before that frantic late flurry.

The performance at least changes the mindset for Laois ahead of their trip to O Flatharta's old stomping ground in Westmeath for the opening round of the league.

INJURIES

The Kerry native reckons 18 of his squad have been unavailable between college duty and injuries, and concedes they still have work to do before that date. "While the performance was very encouraging and we had good work rate, we made some silly mistakes as well."

For Gavin, he has at least one extra pre-season game to prepare for when they visit Navan to take on Meath in the O'Byrne Cup semi-final next weekend.

"There was great competitiveness in the game and from a Dublin perspective, to concede a goal late in the game, that was a big test for the players," said Gavin.

"And they passed the exam today, with great perseverance, resolve and a lot of character, which is pleasing to see in the second week in January."

scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (5f), K McManamon 1-1 (1-0pen), E O Conghaile 0-3, T Brady, C Costello 0-1 each. Laois: D Kingston 0-7 (6f), B Quigley 1-0, J O'Loughlin, C Kelly, M O'Halloran, P McEvoy 0-1 each.

Dublin - L Molloy; M Fitzsimons, D Daly, E Culligan; N Devereux, J Small, G Hannigan; D Baastick, E O'Conghaile; T Brady, D Rock, S Carthy; P Ryan, C Costello, K McManamon. Subs: R O'Carroll for Daly, J Cooper for Hannigan (both HT), P O'Higgins for Bastick (45), N Scully for Rock, P McMahon for Culligan (both 52), H Dawson for Ryan (60).

Laois - E Culliton; R Kehoe, M Timmons, G Hanrahan; D Strong, P Begley, P McEvoy; B Quigley, J O'Loughlin; J Finn, D Kingston, B Sheehan; M O'Halloran, K Meaney, C Kelly Subs: G Dillon for Finn (45), A Campion for Kehoe (52), C Lennon for O'Halloran (60), G McEvoy for Hanrahan (68 BC).

ref - C Reilly (Meath)

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