Laois advance in qualifiers after second half surge sinks Offaly in O'Moore Park
Laois 0-20 Offaly 0-15
A second half scoring burst that yielded four points in six minutes saw Laois win this battle of the neighbours at O’Moore Park.
For most of the rest of the 70 minutes this was a close game, with Offaly giving the winners plenty of trouble with their hard running and tackling - they just didn't have the firepower up front.
Laois just found score-taking that little bit easier as the Kingston brothers, Donie and Paul, hit the target ten times between them.
The winners also had a stronger bench to run in the second half, with players coming into the game to make an impact - Offaly just didn’t have that.
And they kicked a few bad wides in the second half, wides that gave Laois encouragement that this would be their night.
Laois now go on to play one of Cork, Cavan or Galway next weekend, at a neutral venue, with a place in the Super 8s at stake.
At least, unlike each of those teams, Laois go in with momentum having won three of their four Championship matches in 2019.
They will be hard to beat, with John O’Loughlin manning midfield and the Kingstons scoring well.
Yet they have work to do too.
The way they let Offaly hang around in this game does not bode well.
And their potential rivals all have better forwards than Offaly.
The start of the game was delayed by ten minutes to allow the crowd get into O’Moore Park and we finally got under way with Offaly electing to take first use of a stiff breeze blowing towards the Town goal.
But it was Laois who started better, with Paul Kingston kicking the first point of the game.
This was expected to be a tight affair between two improving teams.
Laois had won back-to-back promotions in the Allianz League and a win here would have them in the last 12 of the All-Ireland for a second successive year.
While Offaly had all the look of a John Maughan-managed team.
They were fit, strong and always willing to play kick-passes into their forwards.
As the first half developed, two patterns emerged.
The home team were winning primary possession through good high fielding, or winning the knock-down.
Yet Offaly were very adept at taking the ball off Laois once they had won it.
The Offaly defence was able to get in tackles, and they were skilled too in an-oft forgotten tactic these days - the blockdown.
Three or four times, Offalymen were able to regain the ball by getting their hands in front of the boot of a Laois kicker.
The teams got to half-time tied at 0-10 each after an entertaining period.
But it was shaping up as a game in which the first goal would be vital.
Laois would use it as a springboard to victory - for Offaly, backed by a big support, a green flag would give them the confidence to go on and take this match.
However, Laois would have the breeze at their backs in the second half and they began to use it well with Donie Kingston scoring two wonderful long-range points.
Another from sub Eoin Lowry followed and suddenly a match that had always been close on the scoreboard had shifted - Laois were now five points to the good.
And from there, Laois began to leave their neighbours behind.
Offaly now needed a goal badly to keep the game going, but the blue wall was not for being broken down.
Laois ended the game playing with a comfort blanket as Offaly tired, but they tired mentally as much as physically.
This game was gone from them and their season was over.
Laois march on, hoping that they can go one stage better than last year, when Monaghan beat them in Round Four of the qualifiers.
Scorers: Laois - D. Kingston 0-6 P. Kingston 0-4 K. Lillis 0-2 R. Munnelly 0-2 C. Murphy 0-2 E. O’Carroll 0-2 E. Lowry 0-1 R. Pigott 0-1
Offaly: R. McNamee 0-4 N. McNamee 0-3 B. Allen 0-3 P. Dunican 0-3 A. Sullivan 0-1 J. Moloney 0-1
Laois- G. Brody; S. Attride, D. Booth, G. Dillon; M. Scully, R. Pigott, P. O’Sullivan; J. O’Loughlin, K. Lillis: D. O’Reilly, D. Kingston, T. Collins; P. Kingston, C. Murphy, R. Munnelly. Subs- E. Lowry for Munnelly 48mins E. Buggie for O’Sullivan 52mins E. O’Carroll for Murphy 55mins S. Byrne for Lillis and D. O’Connor for O’Reilly both 64mins D. Seale for Attride 67mins
Offaly- P. Dunican; D. Hogan, E. Rigney, D. Dempsey; C. Donohoe, J. Moloney, N. Darby; E. Carroll, P. Cunningham; S. Horan, A. Sullivan, C. Mangan; B. Allen, N. McNamee, R. McNamee. Subs- M. Abbott for Carroll 49mins P. McConway for Cunningham 55mins J. O’Connor for Donohoe 60mins S. Tierney for R. McNamee 72mins
Referee- D. Coldrick (Meath)