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Kenny's Dubs find their goal-den touch

Dublin 4-18 Laois 2-17

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Dublin’s Donal Burke is hooked by Pádraig Delaney of Laois during their Allianz NHL clash. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dublin’s Donal Burke is hooked by Pádraig Delaney of Laois during their Allianz NHL clash. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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Dublin’s Donal Burke is hooked by Pádraig Delaney of Laois during their Allianz NHL clash. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Mattie Kenny seemed less offended by Dublin's performance in Nowlan Park eight days ago than most and so, similarly, he wasn't inclined to interpret yesterday's victory over Laois in Parnell Park as some sort of redemptive act.

Two points, Kenny acknowledged, were useful in their quest to prolong their spring past the end of March and into the league play-offs.

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Stephen Bergin of Laois in action against Andrew Dunphy of Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Stephen Bergin of Laois in action against Andrew Dunphy of Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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And the avoidance of another defeat to Laois so soon after their Kilkenny misadventure served to soothe some of the shriekier analysis of his team.

But both results and both performances, Kenny insisted, had to be viewed through the prism of their proximity in the calendar.

Disappointed

"Look, we were a bit disappointed with our performance in Kilkenny the last day," he admitted. "So we were looking for a better one today. And a higher work-rate. And in fairness to the guys, they delivered that in spades today."

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David Keogh of Dublin in action against Ryan Mullaney of Laois. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

David Keogh of Dublin in action against Ryan Mullaney of Laois. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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For Kenny, this was the essential element in Dublin's performance. They weren't noticeably more polished than they had been a week ago in Nowlan Park yet their collective effort went up several notches.

Against Kilkenny, Kenny reckoned Dublin had lost "70 to 80 per cent of all breaking ball", an issue they managed to rectify yesterday.

The seven points they beat Laois by hardly flattered Dublin either. On what Kenny observed was "a difficult day for hurling," they scored 4-18.

They also hit 17 wides and the four goals Dublin got represented only a 50 per cent return from the number of viable chances they created to hit the net. But for Enda Rowland - Laois's All-Star nominee goalkeeper - Dublin could have had four goals in the first half alone, without counting Ronan Hayes's shot that came back off the crossbar on the stroke of half-time.

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Eamon Dillon of Dublin in action against Jack Kelly of Laois. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Eamon Dillon of Dublin in action against Jack Kelly of Laois. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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"Rowland is a top-class 'keeper," Kenny praised. "He made three really good saves. We needed one or two of them in the first half.

"It didn't come. But we spoke to the guys at half-time and we said we might have a bit more space to attack into in the second half playing into the breeze. And it turned out that way."

Still, the victory wasn't without its collateral damage.

Eamonn Dillon was the first Dublin player to limp off in the 12th minute after scoring their only first-half goal, as part of an early blitz that saw Kenny's team into a 1-4 to 0-0 lead. Mark Schutte followed him off after 31 minutes and both Cian O'Callaghan and Danny Sutcliffe went off in the second half also, each nursing hamstrings as they came off.

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Paddy Purcell of Laois races clear of Daire Gray of Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Paddy Purcell of Laois races clear of Daire Gray of Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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With several of his squad still wrapped up in DCU's bid to win a first Fitzgibbon Cup this week and a handful on the brink of returning from off-season operations, the two-week break in hurling league action could hardly be better timed for Kenny.

"We showed really good character out there, we worked really hard," Kenny noted.

"We were better around the breaking ball and we showed more desire and deserved all they got out of the game."

For Laois, it was a frustrating day and their clash with Carlow on February 22 already seems destined to decide which of those two teams will be consigned to a relegation play-off this spring.

Yesterday, they were at their best when packing their defence and counter-attacking, the method by which they chiselled Dublin's early lead into dust.

Yet the two goals Dublin scored within a minute soon after the restart forced Eddie Brennan's team to go more direct.

In doing so, they found Eoghan O'Donnell and Paddy Smyth in uncharitable mood.

The excellent Oisín O'Rorke scored the first of those goals after Rowland again saved from Hayes who then almost immediately contributed a much more deliberate assist when he dragged three Laois tacklers across goal and played in Davy Keogh with a clever flick. Hayes's ingenuity was rewarded in more tangible form when he scored Dublin's fourth goal - a classic 'route one' move - in the 51st minute, a score that effectively killed the game and provided a belated jumpstart to Dublin's campaign.

"Look, we were disappointed with our performance levels the last day," Kenny acknowledged. "But the lads bounced back today. We have to start building on that now. It's a platform for us to work on."

SCORERS - Dublin: O O'Rorke 1-8 (7fs, 0-1 '65'); D Keogh 1-2; S Moran 0-3 (2f); E Dillon, R Hayes 1-0 each; D Burke, J Hetherton 0-2 each; R McBride 0-1. Laois: W Dunphy 2-1; R King 0-6 (5f); S Bergin, C McEvoy 0-2 each; E Rowland (f), J Kelly, P Purcell, J Ryan, E Gaughan, A Dunphy 0-1 each.

DUBLIN - S Brennan 7; P Smyth 8, E O'Donnell 8, C O'Callaghan 6; C Crummey 7, D Gray 6, J Madden 6; S Moran 7, J Malone 7; M Schutte 6, D Sutcliffe 6, D Burke 7; E Dillon 6, R Hayes 7, O O'Rorke 8. Subs: D Keogh 7 for Dillon (12 inj), J Hetherton 6 for Schutte (31 inj), F Whitely 6 for Madden (47), A Dunphy 6 for O'Callaghan (38 inj), R McBride 7 for Sutcliffe (60 inj).

LAOIS - E Rowland 8; L Senior 6, P Delaney 6, D Hartnett 5; D Conway 6, R Mullaney 6, C McEvoy 7; J Kelly 6, F Fennell 7; R King 7, P Purcell 5, J Ryan 6; A Dunphy 6, W Dunphy 7, S Bergin 6. Subs: J Lennon 6 for Mullaney (h-t), R Broderick 6 for Senior (57), E Gaughan 6 for A Dunphy (57), J Keyes 6 for Purcell (61)

REF - D Hughes (Carlow).

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