Wednesday 25 April 2018

Ryan's focus turns to Dubs after Lilywhites blitz Laois

Kildare 3-18 Laois 1-11

Brendan Quigley, Laois, in action against Ollie Lyons, Kildare
Brendan Quigley, Laois, in action against Ollie Lyons, Kildare
Tom Shiel, Laois, in action against Ciarán Fitzpatrick, Kildare
Evan O'Carroll, Laois, in action against Kevin Murnaghan, Kildare
Ross Munnelly, Laois, takes a penalty that was saved by Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan
Padraig Fogarty, Kildare, in action against John O'Loughlin, Laois

Declan Rooney

There was plenty to admire about Kildare's victory over Laois at O'Connor Park as they barrelled through the opposition like a growling diesel rolling through the gears. But you still went away wondering how they'll cope in the Leinster semi-final drag race against the turbo-powered Dubs.

For a magical eight minutes Kildare were stunning, but crucially for the other 62 minutes they worked harder than Laois, tackled better, turned over more ball and got more shots off at goal. When you kick 3-18, a total of 16 wides is just about forgiveable.

After such a demoralising league campaign that ended in relegation to Division 3, Kildare manager Jason Ryan would have been thrilled to see that effort was there last week too. The big difference on Saturday was that his side took the goal chances that came their way.

On the other hand, Laois looked shell-shocked at times, especially in the waves of Kildare's brilliant start to the second half. It is easy to forget that Laois was the better team in the first half as the excellent half-forward duo of Niall Donoher and Evan O'Carroll kicked seven points between them, but Donie Kingston's 48th-minute goal was their only other score from play after the restart.


Kingston was the main man for Laois in the drawn game, but, crucially, Mick O'Grady didn't give him an inch this time, while every available Kildare defender crowded him out as soon as the ball came near him.

Kingston was fouled for Laois' 11th-minute penalty - a smart move considering the Arles Killeen man was turning to shoot at goal - and had Ross Munnelly converted the O'Moore County would have held a four-point advantage. Things could have been so different.

"I suppose there was a stage in the first half the game could have gone away from us," said Ryan. "The penalty save from Mark Donnellan at the time, if Laois had scored that goal there was a little bit of daylight between us and them and I think that save was vitally important in the first half.

"Before last Saturday night we were hoping that we'd be able to think about Dublin this week, but we haven't reflected on Dublin and we won't be thinking about Dublin for another minute yet.

"We're all pretty aware of what they're going to bring to the table, it's not going to be any big surprise. Longford are a Division 3 team and we're a Division 3 team, you saw what Dublin did to Longford a few weeks ago, so we'll see what happens."

As they did in the first game between the sides, Laois dominated the game at midfield under Graham Brody's long kick-outs. Kildare did manage to disrupt a few efforts in that region, but once again, on their own restarts, Mark Donnellan was terrific.

His ability to regularly pick out a free team-mates with his quick, short deliveries was impressive and it was only Laois' high work rate in the forwards that stopped him repeating the dose every time. It would be interesting to see how he gets on when the referee is not keen on quick restarts though.

And the importance of kick-outs was underlined in the game's key play a minute after the start of the second half. Cathal McNally - who finally retired in the 52nd minute after a dynamic shift - kicked a great point to get Kildare's blitzkrieg under way and from the restart Brody went away from his tried-and-tested long punt kick-out. His attempted short kick went straight to Alan Smith, who sent Eamonn Callaghan in on goal and he rattled the net from the left.

It was unfortunate for Brody, who had pulled off a brilliant save two minutes from the break to deny Smith, but he was picking the ball out of the net again three minutes later when McNally beat him to the punch as Smith's point attempt dropped short. Ollie Lyons weighed in with a rampaging point, before Padraig O'Neill - he worked tirelessly throughout - ended the wondrous spell with a great score from the right.

"It was (incredible) yeah, they really caught us in the first five minutes or so and that gave them great momentum for the rest of the game then. That is the way it was," said Tomás Ó Flatharta.

"We had a lot of energy in our play as well. We were up a point at half-time then in the second half, just the first ten minutes or so they blitzed us. We made a few errors ourself."

As Tom Shiel and Ciaran Fitzpatrick lay wrestling on the ground, Kingston hit back with a good goal for Laois, but it mattered not a jot. Eoghan O'Flaherty replied for Kildare 17 minutes from time with his maiden championship goal eight years into his county career as Ryan's men easily finished off the game. The 13-point victory didn't flatter them.

"In Kildare, you're the worst in the world or you're the best in the world, that's just the way it is and we've got to be secure in the belief of what we as a group are working at doing, and that's the most important thing. It was important to get a win," said Ryan.

Scorers - Kildare: E O'Flaherty 1-4 (2f), C McNally 1-2, E Callaghan 1-1, P Fogarty 0-4, P Cribbin 0-2, K Murnaghan, G White, P O'Neill, O Lyons, N Kelly 0-1 each. Laois: D Kingston 1-2 (2f), E O'Carroll 0-5 (1f, 1'45'), N Donoher 0-3, T Shiel 0-1.

Kildare - M Donnellan 8; C Fitzpatrick 7, M O'Grady 9, O Lyons 8; K Murnaghan 7, F Conway 6, E Bolton 7; G White 7, P Cribbin 8; P O'Neill 9, E O'Flaherty 8, C McNally 8; E Callaghan 8, A Smith 6, P Fogarty 7. Subs: E Doyle 7 for Conway (21-29 blood & h-t), T Moolick 7 for McNally (51), D Hyland 6 for Bolton (57), N Kelly 7 for Smith (59), H Lynch 6 for White (64), M Conway for Callaghan (67).

Laois - G Brody 6; S Attride 6, M Timmons 5, R Kehoe 6; D Strong 6, C Begley 6, D O'Connor 6; B Quigley 6, J O'Loughlin 7; N Donoher 8, C Boyle 6, E O'Carroll 9; R Munnelly 4, D Kingston 6, T Shiel 6. Subs: E Culliton for Brody (8-14 blood), P Kingston 5 for Munnelly (43), J Finn 5 for Shiel (51), G Hanrahan 5 for O'Connor (59), G Dillon for Strong (64), B Sheehan for Donoher (64), E Lowry for Boyle (64).

Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow)

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