Sunday 25 August 2019

O'Carroll and Kingston axis providing Laois springboard

Div 3 final focus

Evan O’Carroll. Photo: Sportsfile
Evan O’Carroll. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Jim Gavin wasn't so much opposed to the introduction of an attacking mark as the manner of its introduction, disagreeing with the trialling of it in the second most important competition.

Because it's not in play in the championship, Gavin insisted they made no provision for it in training.

Yet despite three defeats, Dublin still topped the 'marks scored' table with 10, an illustration of the quality of their passing first and foremost but also the accuracy of the forwards who took them.

Paul Mannion and Dean Rock lead the way with three each with Ciarán Kilkenny, Cormac Costello, Niall Scully and Paddy Andrews taking them to double figures, one ahead of Monaghan whose nine scored contained six from Conor McManus, out on his own on the individual table.

As the divisions drop the concentration of marks scored dilutes but Laois buck that trend with nine, matching Monaghan in second place.

Ingredients

The presence of Donie Kingston and Evan O'Carroll in their attack lends itself to exploiting a mark but Laois have the natural ingredients for a more direct approach without the carrot of a free shot if the ball caught cleanly inside 45 metres from a pass in excess of 20 metres.

Kingston has, for some time, been one of the effective forwards in Leinster, outside Dublin, putting his power and aerial strength to good use. But now O'Carroll is complementing him.

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Between them, they scored 3-48 (O'Carroll 1-35, Kingston 2-13) of the 8-93 that Laois amassed in their seven-game league programme, that despite both players sitting out the first half of their Croke Park game against Laois when they were rested.

From O'Carroll's 1-35, 0-18 has been from frees, two more from '45s converted with two marks while Kingston has landed three marks.

It has helped that they don't always play together on the same line with Kingston being preferred in a deeper role where his vision and long-range passing can be maximised.

The value of that approach was illustrated with the goal that turned the Offaly (they won 2-12 to 0-15) game their way, Kingston's perfectly floated ball over the top for O'Carroll to catch, shrug off his marker Eoin Rigney and finish calmly.

After two years struggling with injury, O'Carroll is enjoying his best run of form.

It's testament to Sugrue that he has been able to get players back on track, especially this season with Paul Cahillane and Brendan Quigley two of the most prominent in their promotion-clinching win over Carlow in the last round.

Like O'Carroll, both had had difficult seasons in 2018 but are resurgent as Laois got themselves out of some tight situations in a competitive division that ended with three counties locked together on 10 points, divided by just two points in score difference.

Like their opponents in Croke Park, Westmeath, for this evening's Allianz Division 3 final, Laois have been a moveable feast in recent years.

Only seven years ago they were a Division 1 team but went through the floor before recovering under John Sugrue's guidance in the last two seasons.

Sugrue's impact was highlighted on last year's GAA/GPA All-Stars tour by Colm Begley when he clearly pointed to the stability the Kerryman has brought after so much sideline change with Tomás ó Flatharta, Mick Lillis and Peter Creedon in place for just four years between them.

"He put a bit of structure into our play, and I suppose when a lad speaks with a bit of confidence and paints a clear picture for you, you get buy-in," said Begley last November.

This will be the fifth time in the last two seasons that Laois will play in Croke Park, more than any other county in that period with the obvious exception of Dublin, having played last year's Division 4 league final against Carlow and their subsequent Leinster semi-final and final against Carlow and Dublin there before their home match with Louth was fixed for headquarters as a penalty for breaking rules on training camps.

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