Monday 22 January 2018

Laois circle the wagons to end a 43-year hoodoo

Laois 0-29 Offaly 0-21 Leinster SHC Quarter-Final

Emmet Nolan tries to keep possession under pressure from John Delaney and Zane Keenan
Emmet Nolan tries to keep possession under pressure from John Delaney and Zane Keenan
Offaly's Emmet Nolan is pursued by Zane Keenan
Joe Campion, Laois, goes up against Offaly's Sean Ryan
Laois boss Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett consoles Offaly manager Brian Whelahan
Laois’s Zane Keenan gives the thumbs-up after the game Newsdesk Newsdesk

Laois claimed their first Leinster senior championship win over Offaly since 1972 after a scintillating display in O'Moore Park yesterday.

The O'Moore men shrugged off the internal furore involving manager Cheddar Plunkett and last year's captain Matthew Whelan to turn in an inspired performance.

The win now sees them face Galway in the Leinster semi-final and, perhaps more importantly for them, they are now free from the Round Robin series in next year's Leinster championship.

Offaly must now try to pick up the piece, with a run in the Qualifiers the only antidote for the damage this defeat will have inflicted on them.

Laois opened the scoring with a point from Willie Hyland in the second minute, with Shane Dooley quickly drawing Offaly level from a free.


The hosts reverted back to their sweeper system with Stephen Maher often the sole target in the full-forward line.

It took them time to fine-tune the system, even though the sides were level 0-3 apiece after 10 minutes.

A Shane Dooley free and two Brian Carroll points in the space of a minute pushed the visitors three points ahead. For the next fifteen minutes or so, try as Laois might, they couldn't narrow the gap as any time they got close, either Dooley or Dan Currams came up with a score to ease Offaly head once more.

By the 24th minute, Offaly had gone four clear thanks to Currams second point, but that was their final score of the half.

The Laois comeback started with two Zane Keenan points from placed balls, with Cha Dwyer adding his second point before another Keenan free had Laois level.

Offaly were being swamped now, and Laois pressed their advantage home. A massive free from Eoin Reilly, two Willie Hyland points, along with another Dwyer effort, put them 0-14 to 0-10 ahead at half time.

Shane Dooley got Offaly the start they needed in the second half with a point from a free, but Paddy Purcell and Zane Keenan quickly hit back for Laois.

That set the tone for the rest of the half, as Laois just kept pushing further and further ahead, with Offaly unable to match their energy or composure on the ball.

Cha Dwyer pointed from 45 yards out to push the home side six ahead as they clicked into a higher gear.

Driven on by two inspired performances from wing forwards Cha Dwyer and Willie Hyland, who scored 0-12 from play between them, Laois were seven clear when Offaly were awarded a penalty.

Cahir Healy was deemed to have handled the ball on the ground in the small square, but referee James Owens subsequently overturned the call after consulting with his umpires.

Laois then pushed their lead out to ten points as Zane Keenan, Hyland and Dwyer found the target. Stephen Maher also saw a goal chance saved. A couple of late consolation points only served to put a gloss on the scoreboard for Brian Whelehan's side.

Scorers - Laois: Z Keenan 0-11 (6f, 65, sl), W Hyland 0-7, C Dwyer 0-5, P Purcell, S Maher 0-2 each, D Palmer, E Reilly (f) 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 0-10 (9f, 65), D Currams 0-4, B Carroll 0-3, D King, E Nolan, J Bergin, K Kiely 0-1 each

Laois - E Reilly 7; B Stapleton 8, M Whelan 7, C Healy 8; J Fitzpatrick 7, JA Delaney 7, T Delaney 7; D Palmer 7, P Purcell 7; W Hyland 9, T Fitzgerald 8, Z Keenan 8; J Campion 7, S Maher 7, C Dwyer 9. Reps: P Whelan for Purcell (63), J Walsh for Palmer (70), PJ Scully for Maher (71), B Conroy for Fitzgerald (72)

Offaly - J Dempsey 6; D King 5, D Shortt 6, N Wynne 6; C Parlon 5, C Egan 6, P Camon 6; S Ryan 6, E Nolan 7; P Murphy 6, D Currams 7, J Mulrooney 5; S Dooley 6, J Bergin 6, B Carroll 7. Reps: K Kiely 6 for Ryan (ht), E Murphy 6 for Parlon (41), S Cleary 6 for Mulrooney (44), S Wynne for King (61)

Ref - J Owens (Wexford)

Game at a glance

Man of the match: Willie Hyland (Laois)

All of the candidates for this honour were on the Laois side, but Hyland stood out for a superb display at wing-forward which saw him score 0-7, all from play. While his scores alone were important, it was the timing of them which was so crucial, with each one coming when his team needed them.

Talking point

Is this a key moment for both counties? Laois have beaten Offaly at minor level for four years in a row, and the balance in power between the counties appears to be shifting.

Magic moment

Plenty of them to choose from but Zane Keenan's sideline cut from all of 70 yards in the second half was worth the admission price alone.

Ref watch

James Owens did well, with his decision to consult his umpires over the penalty a key moment.

What's next?

It's Galway up next for Laois, who will welcome the Tribesmen to O'Moore Park on June 20 in a game they will once again be underdogs for. Offaly, meanwhile, head for the qualifiers.

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