Kingstons lead Laois rout of shaky Longford
Laois 4-15 Longford 0-16
After watching his side route Longford, Laois manager Peter Creedon said preparations had already begun for a clash with Kildare in a fortnight's time. However, in truth, his mind could have wandered towards that derby game much earlier than that.
By the time Paul Kingston rolled in his second goal and Laois' fourth on 41 minutes, Creedon's men were home and hosed. There was still a half hour to play, but it was merely academic. The game was championship in name only from there on.
It would have been hard to blame Longford if they were despondent at that stage. They went in nine points down, having played well against the breeze. At one stage in the opening 35 minutes Denis Connerton's men trailed by six points, but they had cut the gap to three with half-time looming - a not-insurmountable margin considering the breeze.
However, Laois cut loose to grab two goals inside a minute and dampen Longford spirits. Longford's Barry McKeon had a 'point' - that would have cut the gap to two - ruled out. Then Paul Kingston blasted to the net for Laois, a just reward for a move that began with a fine catch from John O'Loughlin in midfield.
From the resultant kick out, Laois snaffled possession again. This time it was Paul Kingston's brother Donie - who caused Longford huge problems all day - who got a sight of goal. His rolled finish was excellent and put the home side into a 2-10 to 0-7 half-time lead.
Longford were rocked, but their misery wasn't yet complete and Laois struck early in the second half. This time the Kingstons combined to set up Alan Farrell for a goal. A couple of minutes later keeper Paddy Collum was again picking the ball out of his own net when Donie once more set Paul away. With that the game was done, and Longford's wait for a Leinster run goes on. The county haven't been in a provincial semi-final since 1988.
"Barry's effort was a score as far as I'm concerned, unless my eyes deceive me," Longford boss Connerton said, speaking about the point that wasn't.
"Our younger players knew it was a score, but they seemed to lose concentration for that split-second. Then, bang, we were two goals down. When there were two more goals added on after half-time that made it a particularly difficult task for us.
"It was four goals in three minutes of play and that was the nail in our coffin - there was no way to come back. It's disappointing, because we prepared so well for the Leinster championship this year. We are fairly sick now.
"It was poor defending, there's no point saying otherwise. We had lots of experienced players out there and before half-time they needed to be a lot tighter to restrict those opportunities, but we didn't do it. Unfortunately, that's the way we're going to go out of the Leinster championship - thinking about what we should have done."
After seeing Laois drop down to the basement division in the spring, Creedon admitted he had been concerned about how his side would perform.
"Confidence is a big thing in sport. The league was what it was - we were probably sorting out a few things in terms of players. That's the strongest team we have had on the field all year. We trained savage since the end of the league and not one of the players shirked the responsibility. But, look, that counts for nothing. We have to go and face Kildare and that is going to be mammoth battle for us, (a step) up in pace and everything but we have a championship win under the belt anyway."
And he was happy with how the Kingston brothers worked together in the forward line. And well he might have been, not only did they score 3-5 between them but they had a hand in most of the good things Laois did.
"They are good players and today we got good ball into them. On another day, you mightn't get such good ball in. But there were times we felt we should have ran the ball through the hands a bit more, but it's a good win considering the league wasn't overly good for us. We knuckled down hard between the league and championship. Getting (Brendan) Quigley back in the middle of the field was important for us, he put them under pressure on their kick out. Colm Begley had a great game there too. There's work to be done, we weren't perfect either.
"Kildare are outside on a warm-weather training camp this week so it's going to be a challenge - one to look forward to. It's in Tullamore, which is a good field. We can't have any complaints, we're in a much better place than we were five weeks' ago, at the end of the league."
For Longford, they'll be heading to the qualifiers - a familiar destination where they've managed some big wins.
Connerton was backing his team to bounce back. "We haven't become a bad team overnight. There was three minutes of madness today and, if you could take that three minutes away, we were there or thereabouts. We've got to suffer on and pick up the pieces, and get back into it."
SCORERS - Laois: P Kingston 2-1, D Kingston 1-4 (3f), A Farrell 1-0, J O'Loughlin 0-3, N Donoher, E Buggie, P McMahon, D Strong, B Quigley, E O'Carroll, C Begley 0-1.
Longford: R Smyth 0-11 (6f), S McCormack, L Connerton, D Gallagher, R McEntire, C Berry 0-1 each.
Laois: G Brody 8; D O'Connor 7, D Booth 7, D Strong 7; P McMahon 8, S Attride 7, E Buggie 7; B Quigley 8, C Begley 8; A Farrell 8, E O'Carroll 7, N Donoher 7; P Kingston 8, D Kingston 9, J O'Loughlin 8 Subs: J Kelly 7 for O'Connor (33), G Dillon 7 for Attride (59), J Finn for D Kingston (68), R Munnelly for O'Carroll (70), K Meaney for Donoher, S Moore for O'Loughlin (both 74).
Longford: P Collum 6; D McElligott 5, B Gilleran 6, A Farrell 5; D Brady 5, J McGivney 5, D Reynolds 6; J Keegan 6, D Masterson 6; R McEntire 5, M Quinn 5, B McKeon 6; S McCormack 6, L Connerton 6, R Smyth 8 Subs: D Gallagher 6 for Masterson (30), B O'Farrell 6 for Farrell (HT), L Moran 6 for Keegan (42), C Berry 6 for O'Farrell (57), D McGivney for Entire, D Mimnagh for Reynolds (both 70).
Ref: A Nolan (Wicklow)