Friday 23 March 2018

Kingston blasts 1-6 to sink tough Wicklow as Laois advance to face the Dubs

Dermot Crowe

Laois, remaining true to their billing as favourites, banished Wicklow to the qualifiers at Portlaoise, although in a matter of a few weeks they will almost certainly be joining them; the dubious prize for last night’s efforts being a crack at Dublin on June 4 in Nowlan Park.

They endured a tough ordeal. The final scoreline conceals the extent of their anguish, Wicklow's challenge relenting only in the final few minutes.

Donie Kingston emerged as their saviour, finishing the evening with 1-6 to his name, with 1-4 from play. His goal in the 68th minute finally broke Wicklow’s spirit and sealed the win. At the time the Division 4 outsiders were snapping at Laois’ heels, only three points down, after repeatedly eroding Laois' leads throughout an exciting match played in brilliant sunshine. Laois were better and had a more talented attack but their defence was a shocking mess, committing a litany of brainless fouls. 

Wicklow were chasing the game throughout as they sought a first championship win over Laois since 1986. Their midfielder Rory Finn epitomised their spirit by scoring six points, including two great strikes from long distance. They rarely threatened the Laois goal but the home team’s indiscipline kept them in the running. But for some poor finishing, mainly in the first half, they could have caused Laois even greater stress.

Laois took a five-point lead, 1-10 to 0-8, into the half-time break, having carried the greater goal threat, creating overlaps with sleek movement among their forwards. Early in the game Paul Cahillane’s blistering shot skimmed the top of the crossbar and an intricate move later in the half ended with nothing as Ross Munnelly screwed his shot wide. Their goal came in the eight minute, a powerful shot from full forward Gary Walsh, after he took a pass from Darren Strong.

Laois set a high tempo from the off, with quick restarts, and were two points up in the early minutes, through Evan O’Carroll and Cahillane, but their defence fouled with impunity. The recent addition of Anthony Cunningham to the backroom staff after a poor league might be too soon to have an influence on Laois’ tackling but it was lamentably sub-standard.

Finn kicked three first half points but Laois led for most of it, except for a brief period early in the match when Wicklow tied the game at 0-2 all. By the 17th minute Laois were six points clear, Wicklow responding with three points in succession, one from their full back Paul McLoughlin. Laois responded with three of their own, Walsh nearly goaling again with a thunderous strike before Dean Healy’s point left five in it at the interval.

Laois had a goal chance early in the second half when a shot from O’Carroll was brilliantly saved by Robert Lambert. Had it gone in it might have been curtains for Wicklow, who would have trailed by seven points. Four points on the run reduced the Laois lead to a point and they were shaken.

O’Carroll settled them with a pointed free and the sub Ruairi O’Connor banged in a goal 11 minutes into the second half, O’Carroll then adding another point. The gap widened to six for the third time in the game but Wicklow would not let go. Their inspiring midfielder Finn kicked two points and two more had the lead whittled down to two with 15 minutes left.

Two points from Kingston gave Laois breathing space but again Wicklow rallied, scores from sub John Crowe and corner back Arran Murphy trimming the lead to two again. The came Kington’s telling late intervention and Laois were clear.

Scorers: Laois - D Kingston 1-6 (0-2 fs), G Walsh 1-1, E O’Carroll 0-4 (0-3 fs), R O’Connor 1-0, R Munnelly 0-2 (0-1 f), P Cahillane, J O’Loughlln, G Dillon 0-1;. Wicklow - R Finn 0-6 (0-4 fs), P Cunningham 0-2 (0-2 fs), J McGrath 0-2 (0-1 f), D Healy 0-2, D Hayden, P Byrne, P McLoughln, A McLoughlin, J Crowe, A Murphy 0-1.

Laois: G Brody; S Attride, M Timmons, P Cotter; D O’Connor, D Strong, G Dillon; J O’Loughlin, B Quigley; N Donoher, P Cahillane, E O’Carroll; R Munnelly, G Walsh, D Kingston.

Subs: M Campion for Donoher (inj half-time); R O’Connor for Mundanely (half-time); K Meaney for Campion (48); A Farrell for Dillon (55); E Keane for Walsh (61); J Farrell for O’Carroll (67).

Wicklow: R Lambert; C Hyland, P McLoughlin, A Murphy; C Murphy, D Healy, S Kelly; R Finn, N Gaffney; D Hayden, J McGrath, M Kenny; P Byrne, P Cunningham, M Lennon.

Subs: A McLoughlin for Gaffney (half-time); D Woods for Kenny (41 mins); P O’Connor for McGrath (43); J Crowe for Murphy (50); S Thompson for Byrne (56); G Allen for Lennon (66).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).

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